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Poet laureate castigates English

Andrew Motion, the poet laureate, will today call for more frequent changes to the writers and books on the curriculum to make English lessons less boring.

Writers over-used by schools include the modern poets Simon Armitage and Carol Ann Duffy, he says, though he stresses that he admires their work. Mr Motion told The TES: "It must be extremely boring for the teachers, apart from anything else, though it may be that they don't want to rewrite their notes from year to year.

"I know teachers are overworked but there really should be more diversity, a greater range of forms of writing - the whole caboodle."

Mr Motion is due to speak about his concerns at the Association of School and College Leaders conference in Birmingham. Books he has previously suggested that pupils should read include John Milton's Paradise Lost, Homer's Odyssey and James Joyce's notoriously difficult Ulysses.

Mr Motion says he fears schools often choose poems because they have an ethical message or fit with other parts of the curriculum such as citizenship, rather than because they are well-written.

"The ethical tail mustn't wag the poetic dog," he says.

Ian McNeilly, an English teacher at Brantwood school in Sheffield, says that if greater choice existed at GCSE, he would teach less poetry.

He also defends those teachers who repeatedly teach the same books.

"It may not be new for them, but their pupils are coming to it for the first time," he says. "I'd like to see Andrew Motion get a class of 15-year-olds reading Joyce."

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