Nick Abbot 10pm - 1am
Philip Larkin and Wilfred Owen removed by GCSE exam board in 'diversity' drive
23 June 2022, 13:26
A GCSE exam board's decision to remove works by Wilfred Owen, Philip Larkin and John Keats in a "diversity drive" has been slammed as "cultural vandalism".
Listen to this article
The OCR, one of the three main exam boards, has replaced some of the literature giants' work in favour of "exciting and diverse" poets, including disabled and LGBTQ+ voices.
Some poems by Hardy and Keats will remain, but there will be no poetry by Larkin, Seamus Heaney or Owen in its English literature syllabus from this September.
Thirty poems from last year's 45 will be retained, with the exam board replacing 15.
The new entries include 14 by "poets of colour", including six black women.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi hit out on Thursday at the move by OCR, which is part of a wider reform of the exam board’s anthology.
He said he will be discussing the decision with OCR, one of the main examining bodies in the UK.
He wrote on Twitter: "Larkin and Owen are two of our finest poets. Removing their work from the curriculum is cultural vandalism.
"Their work must be passed on to future generations - as it was to me. I will be speaking to the exam board to make this clear.
"As a teenager improving my grasp of the English language, Larkin’s poems taught me so much about my new home.
"We must not deny future students the chance to make a similarly powerful connection with a great British author, or miss out on the joy of knowing his work."
Larkin and Owen are two of our finest poets. Removing their work from the curriculum is cultural vandalism.— Nadhim Zahawi (@nadhimzahawi) June 23, 2022
Their work must be passed on to future generations - as it was to me. I will be speaking to the exam board to make this clear.https://t.co/w0mwOlsB4A
The exam board described the new poems as “exciting and diverse”, adding: “Our anthology for GCSE English literature students will feature many poets that have never been on a GCSE syllabus before and represent diverse voices, from living poets of British-Somali, British-Guyanese and Ukrainian heritage to one of the first black women in 19th century America to publish a novel. Of the 15 poets whose work has been added, 14 are poets of colour. Six are black women, one is of South Asian heritage. Our new poets also include disabled and LGBTQ+ voices.”
It retains works by William Blake, Emily Brontë, Sylvia Plath and Carol Ann Duffy and adds the British-Jamaican poet Raymond Antrobus, 36, and Kaminsky, 45, a Ukrainian-American who is deaf.
Jill Duffy, OCR’s chief executive, told The Times: “This is an inspiring set of poems that demonstrates our ongoing commitment to greater diversity.”
Judith Palmer, director of the Poetry Society, said it was "fantastic" to see this new selection of poets.
However, Dr Tracy Hayes, of the Thomas Hardy Society, said she was "saddened" to hear of the removal of poems by Hardy and Owen.
She told The Times: "As a serving soldier who experienced atrocities first-hand his poems are crucial to the curriculum if students are to achieve any sense of history.
"Owen could also be seen as representing the LGBTQ+ voice in poetry, writing at a time when his sexuality was still punishable as a criminal offence."