It's quite something for a secretary of state for education to accuse an exam board of cultural vandalism, but that happened yesterday when Nadhim Zahawi commented on OCR's decision to update its poetry anthology by dropping its only examples of poems by Larkin, Owen, Heaney and Hopkins, together with one poem by Keats and two by Hardy. All dead white blokes you'll note. The reason is to make room within its English Literature GCSE for more modern writers with diverse lived experience. OCR is adding 15 new poems, keeping 30 and removing 15. There is clearly something mysterious about the number 45; maybe that the size of the bookshelf in the OCR office. The details are here.
Zahawi said he'd be "speaking to" the exam board, although (quite rightly, I'd say) he has no power to intervene. Given that the DfE has put OCR on the naughty step, it's a good job that the GCSE in natural history has already gotten the go-ahead.
Still, the new GCSE offers an opportunity for OCR to build bridges with the DfE by mandating some poems for study in the syllabus. Here's my first suggestion:
And the finches whistle in ones and pairs,
And as it gets dark loud nightingales
Pipe, as they can when April wears,
As if all Time were theirs.These are brand-new birds of twelve-months' growing,
Which a year ago, or less than twain,
No finches were, nor nightingales,
But only particles of grain,
And earth, and air, and rain.