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Katie Lane reports on the SQA updates for Teaching English, NATE’s classroom practice magazine. You can read Teaching English by joining NATE, which gives full access to the magazine and its companion research journal, English in Education, as well as a huge array of other resources. Find out more at https://www.nate.org.uk/ .
The Scottish Qualifications Agency (SQA) has published an update of the Scottish Text List for National 5 and Higher English (roughly equivalent to GCSE and A Level in the rest of the UK.) All students on both courses must study at least one of these texts during the course, and questions on this text make up20% of their overall final mark. Following the revision of National and Higher courses in 2013, Scottish Set Texts became a compulsory part of the Critical Reading component of the exam. A consultation took place in order to determine what should go on the list, and it was decided to refresh the list every three years. Some texts are set for National 5, some for Higher, and some as ‘crossover’ texts for both.
Following a consultation on the review of the list, there are few changes. The novels Kidnapped and The Trick is to Keep Breathing have been removed and replaced by Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde as an additional crossover text. The number of short stories to be studied, if chosen, has been reduced to four. In addition, two poems in each set of six has been changed. To allow teachers time to prepare these changes will take place in the academic year 2018/2019. More information can be found at: www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/45672.html.
The updated list for National 5 contains plays by Rona Munro, Alan Spence, Ann Marie di Mambro, short stories by Anne Donovan, the novel The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson, and poems by Edwin Morgan and Jackie Kay. The updated list for Higher contains plays by John McGrath, Ena Lamont Stewart and John Byrne, short stories by George Mackay Brown, the novel Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, and poems by Sorley Maclean, Don Paterson, Liz Lochhead and Robert Burns. Crossover texts, available for both National 5 and Higher, are short stories by Iain Crichton Smith, the novels The Cone Gatherers by Robin Jenkins and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, and poems by Carol Ann Duffy and Norman MacCaig.
The structure of Scottish English courses at National 5 and Higher level is significantly different from equivalents in England and the rest of the UK. For both exams, students study a combined language and literature course. In the Critical Reading component of the course, students must answer on one Scottish literary set text, but otherwise teachers have a free choice of English literary texts to teach, and these can include not only prose fiction, poetry and drama, but also prose non-fiction, and film and television drama. Alternatively, students can choose to answer a language question. The questions are generic questions about the genre chosen. Not every text that is studied on the course is assessed in the examination.
Katie Lane is a Teacher of English at St Margaret’s High School in Airdrie, and is SATE Local Coordinator for North Lanarkshire.