Teaching Key Stage 3 literature: The challenges of accountability, gender and diversity

Judith Kneen, Susan Chapman*, Joan Foley, Lucy Kelly, Lorna Smith, Helena Thomas, Annabel Watson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
170 Downloads (Pure)


This article presents the results of a study, conducted in parts of Wales and southwest England, focusing on what literature is being taught to learners aged 11–14 years. By exploring this area, we gain insight into influences on teacher choices and the challenges faced by teachers. Our research, which included a survey of over 170 teachers as well as teacher interviews, provides a snapshot of young people's experiences studying literature in the early secondary years (Key Stage 3). The results show that while some schools provide variety and diversity in their choice of texts and authors, the majority provide a limited diet of literature with texts mainly from male writers, with male protagonists. Girls are rarely the main focus. Nor do the majority of children study literature written by or about those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, highlighting a lack of diversity. Literature teaching at Key Stage 3 is increasingly influenced by the demands of GCSE and exam accountability. We hope the study can act as a catalyst for discussion about what ought to be the purpose and focus of literature study in England, Wales and beyond.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-385
Number of pages15
Issue number4
Early online date06 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 02 Oct 2022


  • diversity
  • gender
  • Key Stage 3
  • literature
  • novel
  • plays
  • poetry
  • secondary


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