“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.”

Ursula K. LeGuin

Following publication of our inaugural research report – Balancing the Books: Gender Bias in the KS3 English Curriculum – in 2022, we’re now pleased to release our follow up report which examines gender bias in the GCSE English Literature curriculum.

The domination of white male writers on the GCSE English Literature set text lists has long been a point of contention. In 2022, only 2% of GCSE pupils studied a whole text – a novel or play – by a female author.

Across all four Awarding Bodies, the same male authored texts with male protagonists dominate teachers’ choices; 80% of all pupils study An Inspector Calls, and 72% study A Christmas Carol.

Despite Awarding Bodies’ claims to have addressed this white male bias through providing increased diversity in the set text lists from 2022 onwards, the evidence demonstrates that this is not the case. Of the set texts offered by AQA, the most popular Awarding Body, over 70% still have a male author and a male protagonist.

Moreover, teachers are being given no incentives to change their choices to new, more diverse texts by the Awarding Bodies’ failure to replace the traditional white male authored texts with which teachers are most familiar. As such, claims of diversification are merely window dressing.

Our new research report – Pride and who? Jane where? The Missing Women in GCSE English Literature – sets out to analyse the content of GCSE English Literature set text lists, and the choices of texts schools make from these lists, with a focus on the representation of female authors and female protagonists. Below, you can explore our key findings by reading the full report.