Knowing more about School English

English across the sectors

As Simple as ABC? (Subject Centre Report No. 14) by Angela Goddard and Adrian Beard complements ‘English at A Level: a Guide for Lecturers’. It studies the issues of transition for students of English Language A level who go on to study English Language or Linguistics in Higher Education. It provides a lucid account of curriculum and teaching at A Level as well as an analysis of the student experience of transition. A pdf. is available on this website.

Even though it is only a minority of A-level students who go on to study English at university, there are pressing reasons for urging more intellectual and pedagogic commerce across the sectors. At the least, university staff need to grasp the nature of the experience of English in school, and how it has been shaped through the massive emphasis placed in recent years on Key Stage 3 and (until recently) on the National Literacy Strategy. They need to understand how little freedom secondary teachers now have to shape or to implement curricula or learning and assessment strategies. Those who have lamented the impositions of Subject Review might learn salutary lessons from even the remotest acquaintance with the realities of an OFSTED visit. Conscripted to a largely instrumentalist project, many of our secondary school colleagues set an example to us all in their commitment to the values of the subject and to imaginative pedagogy.

A Level English

All versions of A level English established under Curriculum 2000 were substantially revised for teaching from 2008-9. Changes were influenced by discussions with university representatives (including the Subject Centre), and have significant implications for A-level literature in particular. They are briefly discussed by Barbara Bleiman in WordPlay(October 2009), ‘First Thoughts on the New A-Level Specifications‘.

The following tables show the numbers of candidates taking A Level English Literature, English Language and English Language and Literature for all awarding bodies between 2001 and 2008 (and provisionally for 2009). These statistics were produced for the English Subject Centre by Ofqual (the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator) from the JCQ summer results data 2001-08 and Ofqual statistics database 2001-08.

In summary, the statistics demonstrate:

  • A 46% increase in those taking English Language between 2001 and 2008, with 65% of 2008 entrants being female
  • A 17% increase in those taking English Language and Literature between 2002 and 2008 (2001 appears to have been an exceptional year) with 69% of 2008 entrants being female
  • A more-or-less steady number taking English Literature over the period, with 71% of 2008 entrants being female

 

Table 1: Number of GCE A level entries in English Language 2001-2009*
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009*
ALL 14,118 14,416 14,971 15,826 17,049 18,096 18,981 20,649
MALES 4,548 4,829 5,082 5,418 5,941 6,444 6,524 7,199
FEMALES 9,567 9,587 9,889 10,407 11,108 11,652 12,457 13,450

Note:

(i) 2001 – figures are Legacy A Level

(ii) 2002 onwards – is A Level (Curriculum 2000)

Source: Inter Examination Board Statistics – Final Results

*Provisional

Table 2: Number of GCE A level entries in English Language and Literature 2001-2008:
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
ALL 17,844 14,687 14,694 14,863 15,580 15,789 16,293 17,221
MALES 4,937 4,399 4,415 4,512 4,642 4,844 4,912 5,374
FEMALES 12,904 10,288 10,279 10,351 10,938 10,945 11,381 11,847

Note:

(i) 2001 – figures are Legacy A Level

(ii) 2002 onwards – is A Level (Curriculum 2000).

Source: Inter Examination Board Statistics – Final Results

*Provisional

Table 3: Number of GCE A level entries in English Literature 2001-2008:
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
ALL 52,545 50,511 50,082 49,577 52,128 51,268 49,333 51,766
MALES 15,084 14,793 14,117 14,313 15,349 15,016 14,587 15,214
FEMALES 37,444 35,716 35,964 35,261 36,778 36,252 34,746 36,552

Note:

(i) 2001 – figures are Legacy A Level

(ii) 2002 onwards – is A Level (Curriculum 2000).

Source: Inter Examination Board Statistics – Final Results

*Provisional

Table 4: Number of GCE A level entries in English Subjects 2001-2009*:
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009*
ALL 84,507 79,614 79,747 80,266 84,757 85,153 84,607 89,636 91,815
MALES 24,569 24,021 23,614 24,243 25,932 26,304 26,023 27,787 28,601
FEMALES 59,915 55,591 56,132 56,019 58,824 58,849 58,584 61,849 63,214

Note:

(i) 2001 – figures are Legacy A Level

(ii) 2002 onwards – is A Level (Curriculum 2000).

(iii) This title cover a range of related subjects.

Source: Inter Examination Board Statistics – Final Results

*Provisional

Some useful articles

These three articles (reproduced by kind permission of the National Association for the Teaching of English), give vivid insight into aspects of English literature at A-level.

Some useful websites