Is GCSE English teaching influencing pupil’s reading habits?

2019-12-16

Starting GCSE English teaching early could be deterring pupils from reading for pleasure, a subject academic has claimed.


According to Rachel Roberts, from the National Association for the Teaching of English, the ‘bleeding down’ of GCSE English into earlier year groups is putting pupils off reading.


It comes as the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) results revealed a decline in the proportion of teenagers who read for pleasure.


Ms Roberts, a PGCE Secondary English tutor at the University of Reading, told teachers at a London event that the revised GCSE syllabus has had an impact.


“At key stage 3, there’s considerable evidence of the bleeding down of GCSE into earlier years, where GCSE texts are taught lower down the school as a way of getting through content, as well as including GCSE-style questions for Year 7,” she explained.


More rigorous GCSE English tasks were introduced in 2015, but Ms Roberts warned that it has restricted some of the texts being taught to younger pupils.


“Because of the nature of the current GCSE syllabus, which emphasises classics and linear exams, that has had an impact on how pupils view reading, as well as how English is taught lower down the school,” she said.


“It’s also had an impact at key stage 3, affecting the choice of texts taught lower down the school, that are quite Victorian, squeezing out more diverse or young-adult fiction.”


Some 48% of the 15-year-olds participating in the latest round of Pisa tests said they did not read for enjoyment, compared to 42% across the wider Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).


Meanwhile, around one in four pupils said they spend more than 30 minutes a day reading for pleasure, compared to a third across the OECD.


Ms Roberts has called for more contemporary media texts to be taught in English and has suggested that the reliance on dated texts could be influencing the ability to pupils to tell fact from fiction.


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