Following my recent KS4 post, I extended my research to A Level – that is the exams taken by 18-year olds before they hit university. Again, I’d love to hear from students or teachers, especially in other countries. Here are a few thoughts of my own:
- schools aren’t obliged to stay with the same exam board for both qualifications, and by switching, it is possible to study the same play – those highlighted in blue – at KS4 and KS5. I wonder how many do. It feels like ‘gaming the system’, and that level of familiarity might assist schools and results, but imagine the overall disservice to students of giving them the same text for four years;
- Although, of course, the level of answer expected is that much higher, it feels a little odd to be offering The Dream at this stage. At my school, the latest you will get to study it is in Y8 (and KS5 = Years 12 and 13);
- I suggested that Henry V was a noticeable absence from GCSE, and the omission, and general exclusion of the History plays, here is more glaring. It can’t be coincidence – anyone able to put forward a reason?
- Hamlet makes a welcome appearance here; this also feels like the very earliest when students should be tasked with Lear. It still feels a little early – I believe you need a certain amount of life experience to deal with the complex familial relationships;
- Measure For Measure is, perhaps surprisingly, the most popular play across the exam boards. I hope that by the time they study it, the students are more receptive to open-ended narratives – in lower years I get disbelief and resentment whenever I teach a story, eg Roald Dahl‘s ‘The Landlady’, where they have to think about what happens next
- As last time, if I ruled the world, students would get a selection of the following ten:
- Richard II;
- Richard III;
- As You Like It;
- The Merchant of Venice;
- 1 Henry IV;
- Henry V;
- Antony & Cleopatra; and
- (possibly) Twelfth Night
But what do YOU think?