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'Pretty aint it … Mrs Yonge said so': the changing face of teaching poetry

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An exhibition in Cambridge shows how poems have been taught to GCSE students down the decades – with pupils’ own textbook annotations included

“This bum is the property of the Education department. Parents are asked to cooperate in seeing that the bum is kept clean and in good repair.”

You can almost hear the gleeful sniggers with which an unknown pupil at Grange Academy in Ayr neatly and repeatedly replaced the word “book” with “bum” in a poetry textbook in the 1970s. The defaced book, Here Today, is one of dozens of anthologies used by GCSE students over the decades that have been collected by former teacher Julie Blake, some of which are now on display at Cambridge University library.

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