Dropping poetry as part of English GCSEs part of wider devaluing of the arts - Yvette Huddleston

Another week, another ridiculous pronouncement, although this time, surprisingly, not from Boris Johnson or one of his equally inept Cabinet ministers.

The exams regulator Ofqual announced on Tuesday that poetry is to effectively become an ‘optional extra’ on the English Literature GCSE syllabus next year because of disruption to studies by the coronavirus pandemic. Students will still have to study a Shakespeare play, but can choose two out of the three remaining subject areas which comprise the 19th Century novel, post-1914 British fiction and drama – and poetry.

The decision to allow poetry to be dropped is, in my view, an extremely bad one. And so out of step with the times. If we have learnt anything over the past few months of lockdown, it is that creative engagement and expression is more important now than ever. The arts have helped to get people through – a large proportion of this has been via TV and streaming services; Ofcom released figures showing the average viewing for an adult has risen to six hours and 25 minutes per day or 40 percent of their waking hours – but the written word has been equally important. We have seen soaring book sales, people are reading a lot more than they have in the past, but they are writing too. Many have found solace in writing journals, short stories – and poetry.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Particularly young people who, after the dust settles, will be the ones who have been most impacted by all this. They are also the demographic who have been regularly engaging with poetry – creating it, reading it, sharing it on social media. A 2018 survey by the Children’s Literacy Trust put the figure at 48 per cent.

Since the reforms made by Michael Gove back in 2013 during his time as Education Secretary, English has been incrementally devalued. The uptake of English Literature as an A-Level subject is in sharp decline; some sixth forms don’t even offer it any more.

I don’t want to get all conspiracy theorist about this, but it seems to me that this cavalier approach towards arts education is part of the same attitude as the Government’s shamefully slow response to the urgent calls for an emergency package for the arts sector. When it eventually came it was, for many, too little too late.

Treating the arts as though they are ‘nice to have’ or a bit of a frivolous luxury is a very dangerous path to go down. And this Government is striding along it with privileged confidence.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Access to the arts is a basic human right, as any civilised democracy understands. Perhaps we are no longer living in a civilised democracy.

Editor’s note: first and foremost - and rarely have I written down these words with more sincerity - I hope this finds you well.

Almost certainly you are here because you value the quality and the integrity of the journalism produced by The Yorkshire Post’s journalists - almost all of which live alongside you in Yorkshire, spending the wages they earn with Yorkshire businesses - who last year took this title to the industry watchdog’s Most Trusted Newspaper in Britain accolade.

And that is why I must make an urgent request of you: as advertising revenue declines, your support becomes evermore crucial to the maintenance of the journalistic standards expected of The Yorkshire Post. If you can, safely, please buy a paper or take up a subscription. We want to continue to make you proud of Yorkshire’s National Newspaper but we are going to need your help.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Postal subscription copies can be ordered by calling 0330 4030066 or by emailing [email protected]. Vouchers, to be exchanged at retail sales outlets - our newsagents need you, too - can be subscribed to by contacting subscriptions on 0330 1235950 or by visiting www.localsubsplus.co.uk where you should select The Yorkshire Post from the list of titles available.

If you want to help right now, download our tablet app from the App / Play Stores. Every contribution you make helps to provide this county with the best regional journalism in the country.

Sincerely. Thank you.

James Mitchinson


Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.