Rhymes of the times at conference

4th July 2008 at 01:00
Town Hall education leaders will get a break from discussing policy when they meet for their annual gathering next week, thanks to the event's first ever poet in residence
Town Hall education leaders will get a break from discussing policy when they meet for their annual gathering next week, thanks to the event's first ever poet in residence.

Lemn Sissay, a well-known performance poet, will sit through all two days of the Association of Directors of Children's Services conference in Manchester.

After gathering his thoughts, the South Bank Centre artist in residence will then conclude the event with a conference poem summing up what he has heard.

The idea came from Maggie Atkinson, ADCS chair, who invited Mr Sissay to work with her pupils years ago when she was a teacher.

"We wanted to create a record of conference that was more than just a paper," the Gateshead children's services director said. "Lemn is a very incisive commentator."

Would he find it as easy when faced with topics like "resources and sustainability" and "standards, performance and inspection?"

"The poems are in there waiting to be written," he said. "The entire conference is based on services to children. There couldn't be a better place with wider subject matter."

Most of Mr Sissay's childhood was spent in local authority care in Lancashire, an experience he has described as being without love and having a "hell side" to it.

He told The TES: "I spend a lot of my time being contacted by children in care or care organisations asking me lobby for their rights.

"So things may have changed since then but whether that is for the better or not for the child in care is open to question."

Mr Sissay can put any concerns he does have to Beverley Hughes, children's minister, who will also be speaking at the conference.

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