SQA announces set Scottish texts

SQA has unveiled the provisional list of Scottish texts that will be used in future Higher and National 5 English courses.

The list, including drama, poetry and prose, was drawn up after extensive consultation with English teachers, curriculum experts and other interested parties. It includes classics such as Burns and Stevenson, alongside a range of contemporary works.

The full list is detailed below: 

National 5 English Higher English
Drama Drama

Bold Girls by Rona Munro

Sailmaker by Alan Spence

Tally's Blood by Ann Marie di Mambro

The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black, Black Oil by John McGrath

Men Should Weep by Ena Lamont Stewart

The Slab Boys by John Byrne

Prose Prose

Short stories (a selection) by Iain Crichton Smith
Hieroglyphics and Other Stories (a selection) by Anne Donovan

The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Short stories (a selection) by Iain Crichton Smith
Short stories (a selection) by George Mackay Brown
Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon
The Cone-Gatherers by Robin Jenkins
The Trick is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway 

Poetry (a selection by) Poetry (a selection by)
Carol Ann Duffy
Edwin Morgan
Norman MacCaig
Jackie Kay

Carol Ann Duffy

Robert Burns

Don Paterson

Liz Lochhead

Sorley MacLean


The Scottish Studies Working Group recommended that a question on Scottish literature should be answered as part of the final Higher English exam. Ministers accepted this recommendation in early 2012 and extended it to the new National 5 exam, which will be studied from session 2013-14.

SQA was asked to decide the best way to assess the Scottish texts and has recommended an extract-based approach. This means the exam paper will include an extract from each of the selected Scottish texts (across all the genres) and candidates will be able to answer a question on the text of their choice. Candidates will be asked questions about the extract and also about their wider understanding of the text or author.

The list of texts has been shared for the first time this week with English teachers at a series of events designed to give information on implementing the new examination system, which will see new National Qualifications replacing Standard Grades from session 2013-14.

 "We are holding these events across all subjects and we felt it was an appropriate forum to share the list of Scottish texts with English teachers," said Dr Gill Stewart, Director of Qualifications Development at SQA.

"It is important that they are aware as early as possible of the proposed texts. The list is very close to being finalised, though we still need to identify specific short stories and poems for the authors chosen. Comments made at the subject events will be fed back to our English Subject Working Group as they finalise their recommendation."

The finalised list for National 5 English will be published in February 2013 (alongside the National 5 Specimen Question Paper), and used for the first National 5 examination in 2013-14. The finalised list for Higher English will be published in May 2013 and used from session 2014-15.

Roderic Gillespie, Head of Curriculum for Excellence Development for SQA, said: "The Subject Working Group is currently looking across the list for National 5 and Higher English to ensure there is a balance of familiar, established texts as well as newer ones. After the implementation of the National 5 and Higher English courses, the list of set Scottish texts will be reviewed regularly by SQA. Refreshing the list will be considered in line with SQA's aims of including texts that reflect Scotland's rich culture and heritage, and representing a spread of themes, styles, time periods and settings."

Mr Gillespie also pointed out that the extract-based question will account for 20 per cent of the final mark at National 5 - and that candidates are still able to write a critical essay on a piece of literature of their choice which will also be worth 20 per cent of the final marks.

"There has never been any attempt to remove literary classics from other countries from the exam and they will continue to be a key part of candidates' experience of English," said Mr Gillespie.

"The addition of the extract-based question is designed to test the candidate on a broader range of skills across the exam paper and to be fair to candidates of all ability levels."

SQA consulted widely on Scottish texts, with input from English teachers, lecturers and subject associations as well as experts from Higher Education and local authorities.