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Magma 85, Poems for Schools

Edited by Ashley Hickson-Lovence, Laurie Smith and Gill Ward

Teaching poetry in secondary schools is going through a difficult time in England at the moment, largely due to reformed GCSE English Literature and an excessive focus on exam preparation. This affects all literature teaching and is resulting in a steep decline in numbers taking English Literature A Level and English degrees. We risk becoming a nation in which love of literature, especially poetry, is perhaps discovered by some adults in later life, if at all.

We believe poetry taught in schools should be much more varied and inclusive; the articles in Magma 85 explain why. All the poems in the issue would be good to teach in schools – including new poems by Malika Booker, Sita Brahmachari, Lewis Buxton, Luke Kennard, Joelle Taylor, Sophia Thakur and Marvin Thompson –  and we’ve included suggestions for teaching some of them, but we think everyone will enjoy them too.

Cover image by Alvin Erbil, Year 12 student at Fortismere School, North London
Read an interview with Alvin here


Magma Selected: Alison Binney
Listen to Alison read her poems here


Janine Bradbury American Smooth
Alison Binney 38.7°
Harriet Truscott I have a terrible secret
Stuart Pickford Inclusion Unit
Luke Kennard On the Towpath On the Way Back from the Trampoline Park with My Six Year Old Son
Gayathiri Kamalakanthan Finding home


Magma 85 Editorial: First read this Teaching poetry in secondary schools is going through a difficult time at the moment. As Barbara Bleiman explains on page 40, there are several reasons for this: teachers’ anxiety about assessment so that poetry-for-exams has come to dominate all poetry teaching; Senior Leaders requiring direct evidence of learning in every lesson; and the heavy focus…
Rapping in My School Assembly Molly Naylor on how poetry comes alive It pains me to tell you that when I was eight years old, I performed a rap about the environment in my school assembly. I don’t remember how it went down with the audience, but as a tiny white Cornish girl with a Lego fringe and a loose…
Opening the Poetry Door – Letting in the Hordes Barbara Bleiman on how poetry teaching needs to change For many years, when leading professional development sessions on poetry at A Level, I used to say to the teachers at the start, “Don’t think that A Level is something entirely new and different. All you’ve ever done with students aged 11-16 on poetry still holds…
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