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Pearson partners with Penguin to support UK schools in diversifying their English Literature curriculum

The world’s learning company, @Pearson, is partnering with publisher @PenguinRandom House UK and race equality thinktank, The @RunnymedeTrust, 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 extensive 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.

The partnership sees Pearson joining Lit in Colour, a programme launched by Penguin and The Runnymede Trust in 2020 to explore how 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. Building on research currently underway, the programme aims to provide an extensive programme of practical support to teachers to make the teaching of the subject more representative and encourage more reading for pleasure. This research includes assessing 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.

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 and Benjamin Zephaniah / Lemn Sissay. In coming together, Pearson and Penguin want to inspire and empower more teachers to consider teaching these set texts by offering support, resources and training.

100 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 where required
  •  Support programmes of work for each set text, including creative content from authors including videos and a range of resources to support the specification
  • 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 student ambassador programme

The programme, which will open for applications in March, 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

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.

In recent research by the National Literacy Trust, 32.7% of children and young people in the UK aged 9 to 18 said that they don’t see themselves in what they read, and 39.8% would like more books with characters who are similar to them. This was particularly true amongst readers from ethnic minority backgrounds where 40% don’t see themselves in what they read vs. 30% of readers from white backgrounds.

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, 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, added: “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.”

In October Penguin and Runnymede announced they had commissioned a major piece of research to review the current state of play in English Literature education, which will gather views from teachers, parents and young people, and make practical recommendations for change. This research is due to be published in the summer.

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