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Last Updated: Friday, 17 March 2006, 14:48 GMT
Poet seeks English lesson renewal
By Katherine Sellgren
BBC News education reporter at the ASCL conference

Andrew Motion
Andrew Motion has long called for greater creativity in schooling
English lessons in schools need to be brought up to date to engage pupils more in literature, the Poet Laureate Andrew Motion has said.

He said English teaching was at a crossroads because of new technologies and a changing cultural landscape.

Books such as Lord of the Flies appeared on syllabuses year after year.

But he said other texts, such as Monica Ali's Brick Lane, should be used in schools to reflect the diversity of today's society.

"We need to ask how we can reflect the diversity of the society we live in with reference to the authors we use," he told the BBC News website.

"Lord of the Flies is a very good book, but there it is, year after year, for generations on end, while others are in the hinterland."

Pupils taught 'in a box'

Mr Motion recalled how, when he was studying for A-levels, his teacher encouraged reading widely around the set texts.

Appreciation of literature has not been allowed to grow
Andrew Motion
"I notice, in my visits to schools, that this wide-ranging reading doesn't happen any more.

"Appreciation of literature has not been allowed to grow and teachers feel they are letting the side down if they stray off-piste.

"Pupils are being taught in a 'boxy' way - it's a means to an end to pass GCSEs."

He also expressed concerns that poems and books were all too often chosen to highlight separate issues, such as gender or citizenship, rather than for their own literary value.

But Mr Motion, who visits one or two schools each week, was keen to stress that teachers were doing "an excellent job".

Mr Motion was raising his concerns at the annual conference of the Association of School and College Leaders in Birmingham on Friday.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has been conducting a review of English teaching - in which Mr Motion has taken part - and is now evaluating the best way forward.

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