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Teaching An Inspector Calls

Use this unit to transform how you teach J.B. Priestley's play and support your students in becoming effective writers, critical thinkers, and socially responsible citizens, who excel in their GCSEs.


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This resource is intended for educators in the United Kingdom.

At a Glance



English — UK


Multiple weeks
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement
  • Human & Civil Rights


About this Unit

“We don’t live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. “

—Inspector Goole, An Inspector Calls

J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls is a popular GCSE exam text in the United Kingdom: it is read by more than one hundred thousand pupils each year and has featured on the curriculum for generations. Despite having been written over seventy years ago, its focus on social responsibility and its message that we are ‘members of one body’ remain relevant, particularly in the light of the polarised politics and divisive rhetoric of current global trends.

Facing History and Ourselves has created a scheme of work to align the GCSE specification with our pedagogical approach, which balances intellectual rigour with ethical reflection and emotional engagement. By doing so, we hope to refresh the way teachers engage with this titan of texts and to help prepare students for their public examinations, whilst nurturing them to be socially responsible citizens, who consider the needs of others. 

    This scheme of work, which consists of twenty-three lessons of either 50 or 100 minutes, prepares teachers to teach the English GCSE text An Inspector Calls in an inspiring, challenging and motivating way, and enables students to excel academically. Throughout the scheme, students are given ample opportunities to develop their critical reading and comprehension skills, to practise producing clear and coherent writing, and to improve their spoken English through debates, presentations and discussions. Whilst the scheme of work is focused on preparing students for their English Literature GCSE, it is aligned with Ofqual’s subject aims and learning outcomes for both the English Literature and English Language GCSEs, and prepares students to fulfil assessment objectives relevant to both. Alongside the core lessons of the scheme of work are five optional GCSE supplements that focus solely on developing students’ persuasive writing skills or essay writing skills.

    English Literature GCSE

    Students are introduced to the sociohistorical context of An Inspector Calls before reading the play and are given ample opportunities to engage critically with the content and to develop their analytical skills. 

    The English Literature GCSE assessment objectives, as outlined by the Department for Education 1 , are as follows:

    | AO1 |
    | Read, understand and respond to texts 
       Students should be able to:  

    • Maintain a critical style and develop an informed personal response
    • Use textual references, including quotations, to support and illustrate interpretations |

    | AO2 |
    | Analyse the language, form and structure used by a writer to create meanings and effects, using relevant subject terminology where appropriate |

    | AO3 |
    | Show understanding of the relationships between texts and the contexts in which they were written |

    | AO4 |
    | Use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures for clarity, purpose and effect, with accurate spelling and punctuation |


    This unit enables students to fulfil AO1 by ensuring that students develop their comprehension skills, whilst engaging with texts both critically and analytically. Students are given opportunities to practise both literal and inferential comprehension; to engage critically with both their responses to the texts and those of their classmates, identifying and discussing any differences; and to compare the different texts that they read (in addition to the play, students read poetry, non-fiction texts on relevant themes, and a range of persuasive and essay writing models).


    Students fulfil AO2 by analysing and evaluating the writer’s choice of language and crafting of the text, dissecting the messages transmitted by their artistic choices and the impact that they have, ultimately writing analytical paragraphs and essays to explain their findings.


    Students are prepared for AO3 by being introduced to the broad sociohistorical contexts of An Inspector Calls (that of Edwardian society and those which are relevant to Priestley’s life experiences and when he wrote the play). They are also taught to examine the contexts of the play itself: how the characters and themes change as the action progresses. They then use this information when they both read and analyse An Inspector Calls.


    Throughout the scheme, students are given a range of writing tasks – analytical, creative and otherwise – in which they are provided with sentence starters and models. These tasks, along with the frequent sharing opportunities in which students are able to verbalise their thoughts before putting them in writing, help prepare students to fulfil AO4. The Marking Criteria Codes (more below), which we recommend teachers use to engage with the work that students have produced, help prepare students to fulfil all of the assessment objectives.

    For ease of reference, throughout the lessons in this scheme of work, we will refer to the assessment objectives for English Literature with the prefix of Lit (i.e. Lit-AO1, Lit-AO2, Lit-AO3, and Lit-AO4).

    English Language GCSE

    Students are exposed to a range of non-fiction texts, such as articles and primary sources, and are given a range of tasks that develop their creative writing skills and their ability to write for impact. 

    The English Language GCSE assessment objectives, as outlined by the Department for Education 2 , are as follows:

    Read and understand a range of texts to:


    Read and understand a range of texts to:

    | AO1 |

    • Identify and interpret explicit and implicit information and ideas
    • Select and synthesise evidence from different texts

    | AO2 | Explain, comment on and analyse how writers use language and structure to achieve effects and influence readers, using relevant subject terminology to support their views

    | AO3 | Compare writers’ ideas and perspectives, as well as how these are conveyed, across two or more texts

    | AO4| Evaluate texts critically and support this with appropriate textual references


    | AO5 |

    • Communicate clearly, effectively and imaginatively, selecting and adapting tone, style and register for different forms, purposes and audiences  
    • Organise information and ideas, using structural and grammatical features to support coherence and cohesion of texts

    | AO6 | Candidates must use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures for clarity, purpose and effect, with accurate spelling and punctuation

    Spoken Language

    | AO7 | Demonstrate presentation skills in a formal setting

    | AO8 | Listen and respond appropriately to spoken language, including to questions and feedback to presentations

    | AO9 | Use spoken Standard English effectively in speeches and presentations

    Reading (AO1, AO2, AO3, & AO4)

    Students are prepared to fulfil AO1 by answering a range of comprehension questions, looking for both implicit and explicit ideas, and by identifying and synthesising information they encounter in non-fiction texts, both articles and primary sources, and the play itself. They often select and synthesise this evidence in pairs or groups before sharing their ideas with their classmates. Students use their ideas and interpretations to prepare for AO2: they annotate, analyse and discuss the different texts contained within the unit, sharing their ideas verbally and in writing. 

    Students then prepare for AO3 by comparing writers’ ideas and perspectives across texts that share themes. They compare non-fiction texts and primary sources with each other, as well as with An Inspector Calls. To prepare for AO4, students engage with all of the texts contained within the unit critically, evaluating their messages and deciding whether or not certain statements concerning texts and their content are supported by evidence. 

    Throughout the unit, students are given ample opportunities to reflect on the texts they read, and to share their reflections with each other, which exposes them to the fact that texts can be interpreted in a range of ways.

    Writing (AO5 & AO6)

    Students are assisted in fulfilling AO5 in the range of writing tasks set throughout the unit that are related to An Inspector Calls and the other texts encountered. Students have the opportunity to write for impact, adapting their style, register and content for a range of purposes and audiences: they write creatively from the perspective of a character or person in history, using both the primary sources and the play as a stimulus; they write in order to persuade using the format of a speech or letter from their own perspective, building on content that they have covered in the lesson; and they write analytically, outlining their findings and structuring their claims and ideas into paragraphs or an essay. The use of sentence structures, models and the suggested use of marking codes, as well as the range of sharing opportunities and group work also help prepare students to succeed at AO6.

    Spoken Language (AO7, AO8, & AO9)

    Finally, the spoken language, listening and communication skills of students are developed throughout the scheme of work through a range of debates, discussions, group work and presentations. In every lesson, students are given the opportunity to practise the demands of AO8 as students share ideas with their classmates in a range of formats. They also have the opportunity to deliver speeches and presentations in debates and in the mock court trial regarding the death of Eva Smith, thus practising their spoken Standard English. In these activities, students are provided with sentence starters and phrases to assist them in structuring their ideas effectively, thus helping them prepare to fulfil AO9. The debate between Birling and Company vs the union of the factory workers and the mock court trial (Lesson 10 and Lesson 19, respectively) also give students the chance to demonstrate their presentation skills in a faux-formal setting. All of these skills will help students when they come to deliver their formal speech on their chosen topic to fulfil AO7.

    For reference throughout the lessons of this unit, we will refer to the assessment objectives for English Language with the prefix of Lang (i.e. Lang-AO1, Lang-AO2, Lang-AO3, Lang-AO4, etc.).

    Developing Written English

    To succeed in both school and the world beyond, it is vital that students are not only able to produce clear and coherent text that responds to the criteria set, but that they are able to write in Standard English, using accurate punctuation, spelling and grammar. Throughout the scheme of work, we, therefore, recommend that teachers use Marking Criteria Codes when reviewing students’ written work to help them develop the structure and content of their writing, and their written English. These marking codes enable teachers to nurture their students as effective writers by giving them in-depth feedback, which requires proactive student engagement.

    Key Skill Areas

    Using Ofqual’s subject aims and learning outcomes for both the English Literature and English Language GCSEs, and the assessment objectives, we have identified key skill areas that are being developed in the lessons. They will be signposted when they occur in the lessons and will be linked to corresponding assessment objectives when relevant using the Lit-/Lang- structure outlined above.

    • Analysis
    • Application of Contextual Information
    • Clear and Coherent Writing
    • Comparison and Evaluation Skills
    • Creative Writing 
    • Critical Reading 
    • Critical Thinking
    • Evidence-Based Reasoning
    • Knowledge of Content 
    • Knowledge of Subject Terminology
    • Reading Comprehension 
    • Spoken Language Skills
    • Summarising and Synthesising Skills
    • Writing for Impact (form, audience, purpose)
    • 1p. 6, English Literature GCSE: Subject Content and Assessment Objectives, The Department for Education.
    • 2p. 6, English Language GCSE: Subject Content and Assessment Objectives, The Department for Education.

    Read about how this unit assists teachers and schools in fulfilling a range of statutory and non-statutory requirements as outlined in the 2019 Ofsted inspection handbook.

    This unit is designed to fit into multiple weeks and includes:

    • 23 lessons 
    • 23 PowerPoints
    • 1 overview grid
    • 1 Alignment with Ofsted Requirements
    • 5 GCSE Supplements

    There are twenty-three lessons in this unit, designed for use in GCSE English lessons. In addition to facilitating in-depth study of An Inspector Calls and preparing students for the demands of the English Literature GCSE, this unit also prepares students for the English Language GCSE (for more on how the unit fulfils GCSE requirements see Alignment with the GCSE Specification), and also assists schools in fulfilling a range of requirements as outlined by Ofsted (more on Alignment with Ofsted Requirements here).

    These lessons also take students through themes that are central to the mission of Facing History and Ourselves and at the heart of the process of bringing about a more humane, just, and compassionate society rooted in democratic values:

    1. The Individual and Society: To prepare students to read the play, they reflect on the relationship between the individual and society, and how that relationship is both influenced by and influences our identity: Societal institutions, our experiences within them, and other people’s perceptions of who we are directly impact our identity, while at the same time our experiences and our identity directly impact our behaviour and how we relate to those in the world around us. Gaining such understanding will assist students in reflecting on and learning from the behaviour of the characters. 
    2. We and They: When reading the play and assessing the characters’ behaviour, students grapple with the ways we tend to divide ourselves in society, focusing on what role difference plays in our treatment of others and whose needs we consider as important. Students also consider how power dynamics and social systems influence our interactions. Such consideration is vital if they are to challenge injustice and overcome divisions in society. 
    3. Understanding Justice: Students participate in a mock court trial to consider each character’s responsibility for the death of Eva Smith. This process, alongside their consideration of Eva Smith, her voicelessness and what she symbolises, allows students to reflect on the message of the play and its call for a more socially just society. 
    4. Choosing to Participate: In the final lessons, students make connections between the play and modern society, focusing on the lessons that they can learn from its content, as well as considering the power of their voices and actions in shaping their society. In these lessons, they respond to the essential question: What can J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others?

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    This unit overview gives you a brief summary of all of the lessons in the unit and lists the materials needed alongside the main activities.

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    This unit overview gives you a brief summary of all of the lessons in the unit and lists the materials needed alongside the main activities.

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