The Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Tristram Hunt MP, said, “Will the Secretary of State confirm that under his plans, students who study only the English language GCSE will be excluded from studying the great works of English literature?”
Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove MP, replied, “No, they will not be excluded from studying anything.”
Mr Hunt continued, “The Secretary of State is not aware of his own GCSE reforms. He has introduced the soft bigotry of low expectations into our education system.
“He might have enjoyed studying the works of Jane Austen and Wilfred Owen, but he is denying England’s pupils the same access to our national canon if they take only the English language GCSE. If it was all right for him, at Robert Gordon’s college, why is it not okay for kids in Harlow and Blackpool today? Will he now urgently review the changes to English GCSE, or will he continue to dumb down our syllabus?”
Michael Gove responded, “Tragically, when I was a student at Robert Gordon’s college in Aberdeen, I was not able to take English GCSE, because I was in Scotland and GCSEs were not on offer at that time. As a historian, the hon. Gentleman could perhaps do with studying geography rather more.
“Under our new accountability system, which I urge the hon. Gentleman to study and which his colleague, Kevin Brennan, welcomed, English will not count unless students study both English language and literature, and the English baccalaureate, which Tristram Hunt supports, will be conferred on students only if they study both English language and literature.
“He talks about Jane Austen. One of the tragedies about the current English GCSE is that fewer than 1% of students who sit it actually read a word of Jane Austen. Before he asks another question in the House, may I recommend to him one particular text of hers—“Pride and Prejudice”? A knowledge of both things would certainly help him to be a more effective Opposition spokesperson.”
Perhaps Mr Hunt should be considering a return to his old school University College in Hampstead, north-west London and ask for more lessons.