Page last updated at 16:32 GMT, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 17:32 UK

Laureates join to attack schools

Andrew Motion, James Naughtie, Michael Rosen
James Naughtie chaired the first discussion between the two poets

Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and Children's Laureate Michael Rosen have jointly criticised the teaching of poetry in schools.

Motion said the National Curriculum "squeezed the poetry from poetry" whilst Rosen called current teaching practices "mechanistic".

Both called for more government money to get writers working in schools.

The pair, who were making their first public appearance together, step down as laureates this month.

'Box ticking'

They were in conversation at a BookTrust event, part of a series looking at poetry and childhood at the British Library in London.

Motion said that "there is an aridity, not necessarily in the way teachers teach it but in the way they are compelled to teach it by the National Curriculum.

"There is this ridiculous box ticking business of hunt the metaphors, add them up and then you'll see what the poem comes to. Where is the individual response in that?" he added.

Backing him up, Rosen said "poetry has been squeezed into instrumental, mechanistic slots" citing a 'poetry week' at his daughter's school as an example.

Motion insisted that "things have to change in a very practical way."

"The National Curriculum has to change and make more room for creative writing, teacher training has to change so that teachers can be involved with this in a way that, frankly they aren't at the moment."

Both poets have worked to change the government's approach to teaching poetry during their tenure as laureates and have been individually outspoken on the subject.

'Appalling effect'

In an interview with BBC News, Motion cited the increase in the number of writers visiting schools as one of the thing he was most proud of achieving during his time in the job.

During the open session he said that more money was needed so that writers could create ongoing relationships with schools rather than paying one-off visits.

Michael Rosen told the BBC his negotiations with government minsters had been "fascinating".

He went on to say he believed "the government recognises the curriculum was overstuffed but has not recognised as yet the appalling effect that SATS have on the way teachers teach."

He revealed he was toying with the idea of a 19th century style novel following one child's journey through the education system from bottom to top based on his behind the scenes insights.

The new Poet Laureate and Children's Laureates are due to be announced before the end of April.



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