What has changed in the new GCSE English?

You may have heard that the GCSEs are changing. We are just beginning our 2nd term of teaching the new English GCSE specification here at Riviera Tuition HQ. What has changed? Only British authors feature now feature on the syllabus. For decades, children studied a range of texts from around the globe, including many American texts such as “Of Mice and Men” and “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Most adults remember reading “Of Mice and Men” (rabbits anyone?). I think is excluding some very good books and limiting the cultural differences that children can experience when reading novels from different parts of the world. However, we have a fine collection of British writers and poets which span over the centuries that are just as good!


So what is new and what can you expect your child to be studying in the new English GCSE?

Shakespeare is back. To be honest, he never went away. But now he features in a compulsory exam, before many schools opted to convince teenage boys of Shakespeare’s genius through coursework (controlled assessments). Schools may now choose:

  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Macbeth
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Julius Caesar
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • The Tempest

The 19th Century Novel now features. These are often seen as the “classics” of English Literature. It appears that the government want students to study a range of literature from across the centuries in British history. The 19th Century was a time of rapid change and much of this can be explored through literature.

The texts comprise of:

  • Charles Dickens – Great Expectations
  • Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol
  • Robert Louis Stevenson – The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
  • Mary Shelley – Frankenstein
  • Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice
  • Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – The Sign of Four


Another area that students are expected to study is post-1914 drama and prose. In my opinion, this is where some of the most interesting texts lie and allow students to really question things that they are familiar with in their own society.

The choice is:

  • JB Priestley – An Inspector Calls
  • Alan Bennett – The History Boys
  • Willy Russell – Blood Brothers
  • Dennis Kelly – DNA
  • Shelagh Delaney – A Taste of Honey
  • Simon Stephens – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (drama adaptation)
  • William Golding – The Lord of the Flies
  • George Orwell – Animal Farm
  • Kazuo Ishiguro – Never Let Me Go
  • Meera Syal – Anita and Me
  • Stephen Kelman – Pigeon English


A two-hour poetry exam is the final delight of the course and usually consists of an anthology of poetry selected from across the ages. Pupils will only have to learn 12 of these poems for the exam and will be asked to write about an unseen poem too.

Which text will become the new Of Mice and Men, we cannot tell. But which of these texts are your favourite?

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