From education to employment

Lit in Colour Pioneers leaps into its third year diversifying English texts for tens of thousands of UK students

  • Pearson and Penguin Random House open the third round of Lit in Colour Pioneers applications to support more schools diversify their English curriculum
  • Two years since its initial launch, the programme has helped 180 schools enrich their learning by introducing students to writers of colour
  • The free programme for secondary schools has doubled its outreach from 12,000 students to more than 24,000 students since January 2022
  • 82,000 books from writers of colour have been donated to schools across the UK

After a year in which just one in 20 teachers felt that education in schools reflected the diversity of pupils’ lives, Pearson and Penguin Books are gearing up to launch the third year of their popular Lit in Colour Pioneers programme. The free programme now supports over 180 schools to diversify their curriculum with over 24,000 students accessing enriching, diverse texts by writers of colour.

Lit in Colour is now looking for 100 more schools to join this year’s cohort, as publishers Bloomsbury, Hachette, Serpent’s Tail, Nick Hern Books, Concord Theatricals Ltd and Penguin once again come together to donate a range of books to participaring schools. To date, their exclusive library donation programme has seen 63,000 books provided to schools across the country.

The Lit in Colour Pioneers programme was originally launched in response to Penguin’s findings that fewer than 1% (0.7%) of GCSE students in England study a book by a writer of colour, compared to 34.4% of school-age students in England who identify as Black, Asian or minority ethnic.

Since then, research conducted for Pearson’s 2022 School Report has found that the majority of teachers in England would like to see tolerance of diverse opinions (58%), and social and cultural awareness (57%), developed in the future national curriculum to enable pupils to thrive in 2022 and beyond. The Lit in Colour Pioneers programme is seen by many educators as providing a firm foundation for diversity and inclusion, not just in English but in schools as a whole.

As part of the Pioneers programme, participating schools receive extensive guidance and resources for teaching GCSE and A Level English Literature set texts by Black, Asian and minority ethnic writers, including free access to:

  • Copies of chosen set texts for every student in the relevant year group donated by publishers, including The Empress by Tanika Gupta (Bloomsbury), The Color Purple by Alice Walker (Hachette), Boys Don’t Cry by Malorie Blackman (Penguin), Sweat by Lynn Nottage (Nick Hern Books) and The Cutting Season by Attica Locke (Serpent’s Tail).
  • A programme of work and series of free resources including CPD training webinars for teachers and school librarians, plus qualification-switching support and training where required
  • Support programmes of work for each set text, with creative content from authors including videos and a range of specific 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
  • A reading for pleasure club

In addition to the bespoke support being given to Pioneer schools, the Lit in Colour Pioneers programme also offers free access to related online training events and workshops for all secondary schools across the UK, as well as free digital teaching resources.

Head of English Tabatha Sheehan of Westonbirt School, which has been involved in the programme since 2021, is clear about the impact it has had on both students and staff. She said: “The Lit in Colour Pioneers programme has helped us greatly, not only by helping us to diversify our curriculum but by inspiring staff and students to read more widely, and think more inclusively.

“We are integrating many of the Lit in Colour books into a Staff Diversity Policy and Training group, which is feeding into our Behaviour Policy, our Curriculum Development Team and our enrichment programme.”

Danny Cuttell, Head of English at Pearson, said: “English plays a critical role in helping develop understanding and empathy among students – a role it arguably serves more effectively than any other subject. That’s why it feels so important for us to provide schools with a choice of texts that is as rich, diverse and compelling as possible.

“Since 2019, Pearson Edexcel has had the broadest and most representative choice in the country: over 25% of our GCSE set texts comprise authors of colour. By further expanding the Lit in Colour Pioneers programme in partnership with Penguin and other publishing houses, we’re excited to introduce even more schools to the endless opportunities that language, learning and diverse voices can unlock.”

Lit in Colour increases UK students’ access to books by writers of colour and those from minority ethnic backgrounds, and ensures the teaching and learning of English Literature better reflects contemporary culture and society. Pearson became a Lit in Colour partner in February 2021, as part of its ongoing commitment to maximise diversity in all areas of the curriculum, and empower schools to give students access to a wide range of authors, characters and books that fully represent the richness of the UK population.

Schools can register their interest for the Lit in Colour Pioneers programme now at

Related Articles