Pearson is joining Lit in Colour, the programme launched by Penguin Random House UK and race equality thinkt ank The Runnymede Trust to support UK schools in diversifying their English Literature curriculum.
As the UK's largest awarding body, Pearson will work with Penguin and 100 schools initially to offer guidance and resources for teaching GCSE and A-Level English Literature set texts by Black, Asian and minority ethnic writers in the new academic year.
By providing practical support to teachers to make the teaching of the subject more representative, the initiative hopes to increase UK students’ access to books by writers of colour and those from minority ethnic backgrounds, and ensure the teaching and learning of English Literature better reflects contemporary culture and society.
Research is currently under way to assess the diversity of books and authors studied in English Literature exams, including at GCSE level, versus those available, and how best to help teachers and schools broaden this through resources and training. Gathering views from teachers, parents and young people, with practical recommendations for change, this research commissioned by Penguin and Runnymede is due to be published in the summer.
Over 25% of set texts offered by Pearson at GCSE comprise authors of colour, including novels by Malorie Blackman, Meera Syal, Tanika Gupta, Jamila Gavin, Benjamin Zephaniah and Lemn Sissay. In partnership, Pearson and Penguin have said they want to inspire and empower more teachers to consider teaching these set texts by offering support, resources and training.
One hundred secondary schools in England will be offered the opportunity to participate in a new Lit in Colour Pioneers programme, receiving free access to: copies of the set texts for every student in the relevant year group; a programme of work and series of free resources including CPD training webinars for teachers and school librarians plus qualification switching support and training; support programmes of work for each set text, including creative content from authors including videos and a range of resources; a Lit in Colour mini library including 300 free Penguin books by writers of colour, designed for all age groups, together with colourful posters and artwork; and a student ambassador programme.
The programme opens for applications in March and will support any school or college looking to diversify their English Literature curriculum by teaching one of Pearson’s new GCSE or A-Level set texts, starting in September 2021. Schools can register their interest for the Lit in Colour Pioneers programme at go.pearson.com/litincolour.
In addition to the bespoke support for 100 schools, the Lit in Colour Pioneers programme will offer all secondary schools across the UK free access to the online training events and workshops, as well as free digital teaching resources.
Katy Lewis, head of English, drama and languages at Pearson, said: "As the first awarding organisation to ensure over 25% of our GCSE English Literature texts are written by authors from ethnic minority backgrounds, we remain committed to implementing a range of measures to maximise all areas of diversity in the curriculum. The partnership with Lit in Colour continues this commitment and will help us empower schools to give their students access to a wide range of authors, characters and books that represent the rich diversity of the UK.
"The Lit in Colour Pioneers programme is just the first step in our partnership with Penguin and The Runnymede Trust – the success of which, we hope will encourage and inspire other schools to make the switch to a more diverse GCSE and A-Level English Literature curriculum. We look forward to continuing to support schools and students to celebrate books by writers of colour and encourage the reading of more diverse texts both inside and outside the classroom."
As part of the partnership, Sharon Hague, senior vice-president for UK Schools, will join educators and representatives from the sector on the Lit in Colour advisory board to help inform the development of the wider project.
Zaahida Nabagereka, programme manager for Lit in Colour at Penguin Random House, said: "Pearson has significant qualifications expertise, wide reach into schools and a strong commitment to diversify their courses. So we’re really pleased to bring them on board at this early stage of the Lit in Colour programme. The partnership with Pearson will make a real difference in schools and help us to test out ways that our future support can be most effective for teachers and students. We look forward to working with Pearson and other partners as the Lit in Colour programme develops."