BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in:  UK: England
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
'Killing' poem shocks teachers
Teacher Gill Gildenberg
Gill Gildenberg: "A very powerful poem"
English teachers in east Yorkshire have refused to include a poem on an exam syllabus because of its violent content.

Tutors at Sydney Smith School, Anlaby, Hull, have even said they will tear the page from the book if they have to.

But the work, included it in a GCSE poetry anthology for schools, has been defended by an examination board as a "fictional view of an adolescent's feelings".

The poem is called Education for Leisure, and starts with the words "Today I am going to kill something" before talking of torturing goldfish and budgies.

We do not want blood on our hands

Gill Gildenberg, teacher

The school's head of English Gill Gildenberg said: "I never thought I would hear myself saying this but we do have take a responsible attitude.

"It really does worry me that we could be endorsing violent feelings.

"It is something which children would readily identify with.

"It is about an unemployed individual who seeks recognition by killing.

Kitchen knife

"It is a very powerful poem - but that is my point, we do not want blood on our hands."

The poem was written by Glaswegian-born writer and philosophy graduate Carol Anne Duffy.

The Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), the largest examination board in the UK, has included the book in its study list for 15 and 16-year-old students in 2004.

Accompanied by a picture of a kitchen knife stuck vertically into a block of wood, it begins: "Today I am going to kill something, anything.

'Playing God'

"I have had enough of being ignored and today I am going to play God..."

It goes on: "I squash a fly against the window with my thumb...

"I am a genius, I could be anything at all with half a chance but today I am going to change the world...

"I pour the goldfish down the bog, I pull the chain, I see that is good, I see the budgie is panicking.

"There is nothing left to kill, I get out the breadknife and go out."

Ms Gildenberg has written to AQA to complain.

But George Turnbull, spokesperson for AQA, said: "We are sorry for any offence.

"It is a poem selected by teachers and was approved by the government watchdog, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority.

"It is a fictional view of an adolescent's feelings.

"Pupils can do the course without touching the work."

Click here to go to Humber
See also:

23 Jul 01 | Education
Gun poem suspension upheld
05 Nov 99 | Education
Halloween essay puts boy in jail
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more England stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more England stories