Let verse loose in every corner of your school

17th October 2008 at 01:00
For poetry to flourish and thrive in all children's heads, we need to have a great diversity of poets, poetry books, DVDs, internet sources and poetry on radio and television going into schools.

For poetry to flourish and thrive in all children's heads, we need to have a great diversity of poets, poetry books, DVDs, internet sources and poetry on radio and television going into schools.

At the moment, this isn't happening. Poetry is being frozen in the ice of the national literacy strategy. Teachers feel, quite rightly, that they are doing what they have to by following the recommendations of the documents that land on their headteachers' desks - the implied requirements of Sats and the demands of Ofsted.

Poetry gives voice to deep feelings, attitudes and outlooks. It expresses many and varied ways of looking at the world. It puts together sounds and uses of language that help children find ways of talking, thinking and writing that they won't find anywhere else.

This is why poetry needs to be in the spaces between everything else in school. It needs to be just in the air and around everyone. It should be on the walls, in assemblies, in corners and in the books that are around.

At present, publishers are understandably cautious about bringing out books of new poetry because even the most successful poets aren't selling brilliantly. Of course they aren't selling - schools feel they can fulfil what's required of them by buying in a few anthologies that cover all the bases.

What is needed is a specific poetry curriculum. It should be a set of advisory guidelines, helping teachers to devise the best practice. I would chip in some of these:

1. Schools should encourage poetry in performance.

2. Every classroom and school library should be well stocked with poetry books.

3. Reading of poetry needs to be freed from obsessive interrogation.

4. Poets should be invited into schools.

To reach every child, we need diversity of poets and diversity of poems. Never be satisfied that you've "done" poetry. The point about poetry is that it's never "done". It is an endless supply of voices, thoughts and images going back thousands of years, covering every corner of the globe.

Michael Rosen, Children's Laureate.

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