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Bards drafted in to help boost poetic know-how

Poets are being drafted in to train teachers in how to bring poetry to their pupils.

The Well Versed programme, led by the charity Creativity, Culture and Education, is developing courses in new ways to teach poetry and training poets to work in schools.

A year-long pilot project is running in the North East, the East of England and the West Midlands.

In the West Midlands, poets will receive support to work in primary schools. There is also a joint project between literature development agency Writing West Midlands and Newman University College to develop a module for postgraduate trainee teachers on how to bring poetry into the classroom.

Lyn Mountford, senior lecturer in primary English at Newman University College, Birmingham, said her voluntary "twilight" course for PGCE students was fully booked.

The classes are taught by poet Roz Goddard and Jonathan Davidson, chief executive of Writing West Midlands. A visiting poet attends each session.

"They (the students) were taught it for GCSE and possibly A-level, but some lack confidence in teaching it," Ms Mountford said. "This is really about taking barriers away and looking at the enjoyment factor of poetry and how they can support children to be writers themselves."

There are six sessions planned. Students will have the opportunity to run a poetry event during their school placement with help from the poets they have met.

Ms Goddard, who previously taught in further education, said the students were being asked to create poems to help them understand the creative process. "If teachers begin to become confident writers themselves, they will become much more confident in class," she said.

"They can show the rawness of the process. They can say, 'Look, this word isn't working' and that gives children the sense they are all in it together. It is important to enthuse children about writing to show it is a craft you can get better at."

In the North East, there will be a professional development programme for poets and a new postgraduate certificate in creative writing for teachers at Northumbria University.

In the East of England, the focus will be on live literature and using new technology to teach poetry.

www.wellversedpoetry.co.uk.

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