GCSE pupils upset by exam question on rape story

One student, Hadiatou Barry, wrote a letter of complaint to AQA to say she was “horrified” to discover that the character Alice was sexually exploited later on in the story. An AQA spokesperson said: “There weren’t any references to sexual assault on our GCSE English Language paper. “An extract on the paper was from a story that features this later on – but this was an unseen extract so no-one had to read the whole story.  “We don’t think the choice of extract was inappropriate – but we’re sorry to hear that some people don’t agree, as we’d never want to upset anyone.” Herbert Ernest Bates was born in 1905 in Northampton and after a short career as a warehouse clerk, he became a prolific writer of short stories as well as plays, poems and essays.  He is best known for writing a series of short stories under the pseudonym “Flying Officer X” about the RAF. Many of his stories – including A Moment in Time and Fair Stood the Wind for France – were adapted into television series after his death.   Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. An exam board has apologised after a GCSE English exam used a passage from a book in which a character was raped. Pupils complained that the unseen text in their exam paper was taken from a story that later goes on to detail how a young woman becomes pregnant after being sexually exploited by her employer.The passage featured in Tuesday’s exam  – which was about a couple and their daughter Alice who sell produce to people in their local area from a van –  is an extract from The Mill, a short story by H. E. Bates, published in 1935. Students were asked to analyse the language used in the text  as well as its structure, and what feelings are evoked by its descriptions of Alice and her parents.Later on in the story, Alice’s parents send her to work at a mill where the she endures the unwelcome attention of her employer who rapes her, then dismisses her after she falls pregnant. The description of the rape was not part of the excerpt in the exam paper, but students nonetheless protested that the excerpt should have come with a “trigger warning”.  “Some people I know were actually disturbed and worried by the extract,” Alana Kingsley, a pupil from Lowestoft, Suffolk wrote on Twitter.   The letter, which she posted on Twitter, said: “Although I completely understand that AQA were not responsible for writing the fictional novel, you without a doubt had a vast amount of novels which you could pick from.  “This exam may have very well acted as a trigger for underlying mental health issues which could have possible effected and undermined their performance within the exam”.  She demanded that AQA take “appropriate measures” are put in place so that such “blunders” do not happen again.  The AQA board said it was “sorry to hear” that some pupils felt the unseen extract was inappropriate, adding that it would “never want to upset anyone”. It is not the first exam question that has sparked debate this summer. Last month the exam board EdExcel, which is owned by Pearson,  asked GCSE Biology students to identify the “gender” shown by a set of chromosomes, then told them to show how “gender is inherited” from parents. The board came under fire from scientists who pointed out that the correct term is “sex” rather than “gender” and that the difference between the two is integral to science.   “Sex” refers to biological differences between males and females including genetics, while “gender” refers to socially constructed roles that men and women are expected to play.

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