When Of Mice and Men was ousted from the KS4 curriculum in 2015, next on many teachers’ done-to-death hitlists was An Inspector Calls. Even the most-loved of texts struggles to warrant being read or watched year-in-year-out, let alone studied day-in-day-out for weeks at a time, typically with at least a few pupils who utterly fail to comprehend why the person at the front of the classroom is extolling the text in hand. Yet An Inspector Calls endures. Offered up by AQA, Edexcel, Eduqas and OCR, it remains the most used text in the post-1914 prose/drama unit. Given its ubiquity and longevity on the GCSE syllabus, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s no need for another revision guide; we respectfully beg to differ: introducing our An Inspector Calls Revision Guide for GCSE English…
Explaining the eternal popularity of Priestley’s play with our An Inspector Calls Revision Guide
Just as Shakespeare can be adapted for all times, so can the Inspector. Yes, the Birlings are products of the early twentieth century and many productions resemble outmoded period pieces, but let’s not forget that Priestley was using a pre-WWI setting as a front for post-WWII discourse. Fast-forward another 75 years and coronavirus, climate change and globalisation give the theme of interconnectedness a fresh spin.
The Inspector’s message that ‘we are members of one body’ is arguably more relevant today than it’s ever been. While our guide goes into great depth on the 1945 context of a burgeoning welfare state, it also draws lines through history, helping pupils understand why Priestley used the past to comment on his present and how this relates to the modern day. Rather than a stale play from a bygone era, it becomes a text that speaks to the here and now. Think how much fun you could have in the classroom with the notion of Inspector Goole as a Doctor Who-type time traveller, popping up at various points in history to clear up the mess that humanity has made! A Cautionary Tale is an extra classroom resource that dramatically brings home to teenagers the universal nature of Eva’s demise.
Is An Inspector Calls for lower ability only?
Let’s be honest, one of the Inspector’s big selling points is its relative simplicity. It can be read in 90 minutes, and even reluctant boys have an attention span the length of a football match. It takes place in a single location with a limited cast of characters, all of whom are ciphers for Priestley’s teachings. At the lowest level, there’s not too much to get your head around. For those whose minds are blown by the revelation that Inspector Goole might be spectral, the Chain of Events summarises the plot summary and themes are explained In Brief. This information is designed to stand out so that lower ability readers access the key points even if they gloss over all else. An interactive glossary also helps them to understand more sophisticated language.
However, those aiming for Grade Nine are equally well catered for. Taking in feudalism, feminism, social realism and futurism, there is plenty here to challenge the grey matter. Students are guided through big ideas but thinking points stimulate independent thought so that they are not producing replica responses that examiners will have heard a million times before. After all, when so many students are sitting exams on this one text, it’s even more important that the highest ability have the opportunity to differentiate their ideas from the rest.
Everything needed to be exam ready
As with our other revision guides, everything is carefully designed around GCSE Assessment Objectives without labouring the point. First and foremost, we want students to recognise the brilliance of the text they’re studying, which beautiful illustrations bring to life. However, we also want them to excel in a highly-charged exam scenario, so information is organised around theme-driven exam questions, complete with key quotations from across the text and annotated sample answers.
We’re here to help those who teach, so take a look at An Inspector Calls with fresh eyes and fall in love with it all over again, then share your passion and our resources to make your pupils see it in the same light.
Our previous blog on the Romeo and Juliet Revision Guide can be found here. While we’ve got you, why not subscribe to Beyond for access to thousands of secondary teaching resources? You can sign up for a free account here and take a look around at our free resources before you subscribe too.