Obama and Izzard feature in new GCSE English exam

Jonathan Ross Jonathan Ross' interviews could help pupils understand language

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Celebrity interviewer Jonathan Ross and comedian Eddie Izzard could become classroom discussion topics as part of a new English GCSE.

Examining board OCR is introducing a spoken language element in English assessments from September.

Students can choose to analyse anything from stand-up comedy to reality television.

OCR argues that the course will help pupils to understand how speech can be used "to present a certain image".

Reality television

Students will be tested on the spoken language in one section of an assessment.

Pupils can choose to focus on the language of a public figure or alternatively they can study the language used in media and technology or society.

This means young people can assess the language used in television programmes.

In guidance issued to teachers, the board said pupils will "become more conscious of which registers are more appropriate in which scenarios".

This would make them "more likely to succeed when it comes to influencing and negotiating in everyday life, their education and the world of work".

A specimen answer from OCR compares Barack Obama's victory speech with his performance during an interview with chat show host David Letterman.

Bad habits

However the Plain English Campaign warned that the changes could confuse students.

"Surely what we should be doing is showing them the good examples and focusing more on clear English," said spokesperson Marie Clair.

She said the focus on celebrities could lead young people to pick up bad habits.

And she said young people were already aware of appropriate ways to talk, as they often said: "I wouldn't talk like that to my mum or teacher as they wouldn't understand".

She acknowledged that teachers were trying to get students interested, but worried that England had fallen behind other countries in its use of English.

The examining board say they have introduced spoken word assessment into the new GCSE in order to give a more practical aspect to the qualification and encourage students and teachers to explore English outside the classroom.

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