13 October 2021
Ms Brianna MacLean, Head of English
We are delighted that Woldingham has been named a Lit in Colour Pioneer in a programme which supports schools to introduce more books by people of colour into the classroom, for all ages, organised by Penguin Books UK, equality think tank the Runnymede Trust and exam board Pearson.
William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and George Orwell are the literary giants who form the backbone of our current GCSE English Literature curriculum, and they typify what are often termed ‘great’ or ‘classic’ writers. Whilst we don’t contest the greatness of their contributions to the literary canon, we think that the canon itself should be called into question, and we have challenged Woldingham students to consider both what defines ‘great literature’, and why we often limit ‘classics’ to eras that restricted the influence and representation of writers due to their gender, race, culture or religion. Fortunately, exam boards are beginning to recognise the necessity of diversifying their curricula.
Recent research conducted by Penguin Books has highlighted this lack of representation in secondary schools, revealing that only 7% of GCSE English Literature students study a novel or a play written by a woman. Even more concerningly, only 0.1% of students study a book written by a woman of colour.
As one of the schools selected as a Lit in Colour Pioneer, Woldingham has access to a host of exclusive resources and training programmes as we diversify our curriculum, and we have been given a mini library of 300 books written by writers of colour. Students have already begun exploring these new fiction and non-fiction texts – from Bernadine Evaristo to Salman Rushdie, and from Sarah Howe to Chinua Achebe – and our Year 10 students have been discussing belonging and cultural identity in our new poetry anthology.
As a Lit in Colour Pioneer, the programme’s texts, training and resources will enable us to explore literature and writers that are more reflective of both our diverse school community and wider society.