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This report is taken from PN Review 134, Volume 26 Number 6, July - August 2000.

The Muse Militant Lawrence Sail

At the time of writing, in mid-March and with the budget yet to come, the subject of education has dominated the headlines for several weeks. Issue after issue has mushroomed into prominence, including the resignation of super-heads appointed to save failing schools; government proposals to lengthen the school day; the amendment or repeal of Section 28; changes to A Levels; the future of grammar schools; the creation of special academies in problem areas; and performance-related pay for teachers. Meanwhile, a Guardian poll showed that some 200,000 teachers, worn down by workload, stress and bureaucracy, were said to be seeking retirement or other employment. The poll's findings were greeted by a blocking defensive stroke from a spokesman for the Department for Education and Employment ('Our reform of teachers' pay and proposals for their professional development will transform teaching and make it more attractive than ever'), while union leaders warned that the government would ignore them at its peril. Some pundits thought there should be less government interference, others that there should be more, not fewer, government initiatives: and a renewed focus on the disparities between private and state education helped to keep the flames of debate merrily leaping.

Amid all this, at the end of February the Times Educational Supplement ran a piece under the bold headline LAUREATE CALLS UP THE TROOPS FOR POETRY WAR. The article announced that 'an army of poets is to be sent into teacher training colleges', in a project which was 'the result ...


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