(Sally Weale’s article appeared in the UK Guardian, 4/27; The Empress by Tanika Gupta is one of four new plays added to AQA’s GCSE drama curriculum. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian.)
The Empress by Tanika Gupta among new additions in attempt to diversify AQA’s offering for drama students in England
Drama students will have the opportunity to study a more diverse curriculum at GCSE and A-level with the addition of four new plays by writers of colour.
AQA, the biggest examination board in England, says the texts are part of a range of measures to update and revise its qualifications to ensure they better reflect the diversity of students and their teachers.
The new plays at GCSE level will include a thriller by Francis Turnly which is based on the true story of Japanese citizens who were abducted by the North Korean regime in the 1970s and 80s.
The Empress by Tanika Gupta, which tells the story of Queen Victoria’s relationship with her servant Abdul Karim and an Indian nanny called Rani Das, will also be added to the GCSE curriculum.
The new A-level texts include a reworking of Chekhov’s Three sisters by Inua Ellams, located in 1960s Nigeria, and Danai Gurira’s The Convert, which tells the story of a young Shona girl who flees an arranged marriage by converting to Christianity.
The exam board’s GCSE drama qualification already includes the well-known stage adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses, which reverses traditional racial stereotypes and shows racial prejudice from a different perspective.
The texts will be available to study from September, with examinations taking place two years later. AQA is scheduling free online training events to give teachers a practical toolkit to prepare for and teach the new texts.
The exam board will also provide information about the social and historical backgrounds of each text, and cover topics such as stereotypes, accents and casting. It will also look at how to teach texts currently on the curriculum, with a focus on equality, diversity and inclusion.
Sandra Allan, AQA’s head of curriculum for creative arts, said: “We’ve chosen these plays because of the rich opportunities they’ll offer our teachers and students to explore a diverse range of themes including race and social issues.