Enjoying the luxury of a real paper-and-print newspaper this weekend, I came across an article with the headline: “Mural supports English teachers’ favourite poet”**, and was surprised to see the piece was illustrated with a picture of Carol Ann Duffy. She may be the poet laureate, but I didn’t think she was that popular. Reading on, I think it must specifically refer to the teachers at Leeds West Academy where the mural in question was unveiled this week.
The mural – which appears to be sort of woodcut calligraphic sampler – includes lines from Mrs Schofield’s GCSE, which Duffy wrote in response to the banning of her poem Education for Leisure from the GCSE syllabus a few years ago. Personally, I really rather like the earlier piece, which begins: “Today I am going to kill something. Anything.” but I’m not at all keen on the one which is featured in the mural.
As I read, my attention was caught by the name ‘West Leeds Academy’. When I moved to Spain twenty-something years ago, I worked as an English teacher at una academia. I think the right expression would be a ‘private language school’, but the phrase is cumbersome, and it was really difficult to stop people translating academia as ‘academy’.
Perhaps this would be even more problematic now that the UK education system officially includes the concept of ‘academies‘, which, according to wikipedia:
are intended to address the problem of entrenched failure within English schools with low academic achievement.
I mention this, because of a footnote to the story about the Duffy mural: the word ‘Caesar’ appears in the woodcut; it is spelled ‘Ceasar’.
I notice that Duffy’s latest collection is called The Bees, and I wonder if, in their attempt to tackle the ‘entrenched failure’, English academies use such old-fashioned methods of teaching as spelling bees. Perhaps they are only used in extra-mural courses.
**The same story appears online with a different headline
That’ll teach them – mural records Duffy’s rift with exam board that banned her poem
Poet Laureate’s work is enshrined by Leeds school in a giant wood-cut artwork