On the 4th August, the government announced that poetry is one of the subjects that can be dropped from the GCSE curriculum. The decision seems to have been taken after growing concerns that teachers will not be able to cover the syllabus in time – given how much school time that has been missed by many Year 10 students. Is this really the best solution though?
Not surprisingly, it has been controversial. Many teachers, writers and activists have come forward in defence of poetry. They stress its importance in reflecting diversity and giving students a glimpse of other cultures and other ways of writing. Many writers across GCSE syllabuses are white, male and ‘dead as a door nail’ (I have nothing against A Christmas Carol – it is a brilliant text, and Dickens is a wonderful author; just not the only one we should be celebrating).
Part of the problem with the poetry selected in GCSE anthologies is that it is really difficult, even for the very brightest students. It’s predominantly war poetry, heavy Victorian classics or written in forms of English that aren’t used any more. It is therefore not representative of the wide breadth of poetry written and spoken now.
Spoken word poetry has enjoyed a cultural revival in recent years – helped in part by its near cousin, the rap artist. Children are re-engaging with this form of literature like never before. Poetry can be light, it can be comical, it can make fun of power, show where we are from and where we are going. Poetry is often a concise capsule that helps pinpoint something about our shared society. It is important and it’s scary to think that we could raise a generation who never get to enjoy playing with words and beat.
Of course, that isn’t what’s been happening in recent years. When I teach the anthology, it is clear that certain students disengage in panic because of the level of difficulty and some others conscientiously learn quotes, but miss the wider point. Tailoring poetry and, more widely, reading options to individuals is the best possible way to educate and inspire: that’s where we come in!
Our team of specialist tutors are all passionate about their subject and driven to get to know students as individuals. We care about progress and depth, not simply the grade. Taking this more holistic approach does improve student performance in exams, but it also helps them develop a love of learning that is so important in later life.
Just because something is dropped from the curriculum, it doesn’t mean that your child shouldn’t have the opportunity to learn about it. If you’re concerned about the skills that are being missed from their academic journey then our team of tutors can help bridge those gaps. We offer tailored support to prepare them for their exams, but will also help them find a more deep rooted love of language. Personally, I think poetry should be a part of that.
It seems only appropriate therefore that I should defend that view with a poem itself:
Centuries of English verse,
Suggest the selfsame thing:
A negative response is rare,
When birds are heard to sing.
What’s the use of poetry?
You ask. Well, here’s a start:
It’s anecdotal evidence
About the human heart.