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Thursday, April 14, 2016


OVER 20,000 people have signed a petition initiated by a 14-year-old Brentwood schoolboy calling on the Government to change GCSE English exams.

Joshua Turner, who attends St Martin's, started the petition after discovering students taking English literature will no longer be able to take the books and poems they are studying into exams.

Instead, they must memorise key quotations from their texts that they may or may not wish to use in their exam answers.

Just over a month after its inception, the petition has been signed by 20,054 people, eclipsing the 10,000 needed for the Government to respond to it.

If it reaches 100,000 signatures, it must be debated in Parliament.

Joshua, who lives in Station Road, West Horndon, said: "It makes it a test of memory rather than understanding the book or poem.

"When it all first happened we were all really surprised."

"It took us off guard because there was no mention of it, it was a shock."

Joshua's year group will be the first to take the new exams, after the reforms made by the Department for Education in 2013.

In his speech outlining the changes, secretary of state for education, Michael Gove, said: "The new GCSE will also ensure all students are examined on some 'unseen' texts, encouraging students to read widely and rewarding those that can demonstrate the breadth of their understanding."

After finding out about the changes, Joshua set about writing a letter to Brentwood and Ongar MP the Rt Hon Sir Eric Pickles.

"He said he wasn't an expert in education and told me to write to the education minister Nick Gibb," said Joshua.

"He wrote back to Eric Pickles who passed it on to me and he basically said students will not be required to learn large bits of text."

"But his response contradicted itself by saying we will get better marks for quoting parts of the text."

Joshua added: "A lot of young people feel helpless when the Government makes changes because there is not a lot we can do to get our voices heard."

"The petition was the last option."

After launching the petition on February 17, Joshua has been delighted by the way it has amassed signatures.

Joshua said: "The response basically said the same thing as Nick Gibb did and contradicted itself, saying marks will not be awarded for students who just re-write the book but it says top marks will not be awarded unless answers quote the text."

Mr Dearmer, head of English at St Martin's, also feared the new rules could turn the exam into a memory test.

He said: "At present it is unclear what the exam boards are going to require students to do in the exam but a danger is it could reduce the study of literature to a simple memory test.

"Students will have to learn big chunks of text, which would get in the way of deep analytical study if not done properly by the exam boards."

If you want to sign the petition visit

Article courtesy of Brentwood Gazette