An edited version of a news article that first appeared in IrishCentral, 3 July 2022
The OCR exam board said it was making the changes for its 2023 English Language and Literature A-Level. Students taking the OCR A-level can currently study Heaney’s collection Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996 and Boland’s New Collected Poems.
However, the collections are set to be replaced by poems by Malika Booker and Fatimah Asghar.
Heaney’s poem ‘Punishment’ will also be removed from the OCR’s GCSE poetry anthology from September 2022. GCSEs are the basic level of qualification in British education, while A-levels are taken by secondary school students aged between 16 and 18.
Irish playwright Brian Friel’s famous play Translations is also set to be removed from the plays section of the A-level course. Set in 19th-century Donegal, Translations was first performed at the Derry City’s Guildhall in 1980 and focuses on a wind range of issues from language to cultural imperialism. Brian Friel’s plays helped the Irish people to see themselves. Friel’s play and work by British writer Timberlake Wertenbaker will be replaced by Nina Raine and Inua Ellams.
Jonathan Swift’s ‘A Modest Proposal’ and plays by Oscar Wilde will be the only works by Irish writers on the OCR curriculum from 2023. However, the BBC reports that no Northern Irish schools use the exam board for A-level exams.
Famous works by Wilfried Owen, Thomas Hardy, Jo Shapcott, and William Blake have also been removed from the Conflict Section of the GCSE course. Heaney’s ‘Punishment”, which compares the discovery of an ancient woman’s body in a bog to tarring and feathering in Northern Ireland, was also included in the GCSE Conflict Section.
English Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi described the removal of works by ‘Wilfried Owen and Philip Larkin as ‘cultural vandalism’.