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Kate Clanchy: ‘Poetry makes children feel important, that they’re heard’

The writer talks about poetry’s unique ability to unleash young voices and why 30 years of being a schoolteacher isn’t enough

• Read an extract from Kate Clanchy’s book Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me

Kate Clanchy is an award-winning poet, novelist, non-fiction writer and teacher. She is writer-in-residence at Oxford Spires Academy, a small comprehensive where the children speak 30 languages. Her recent anthology, England: Poems from a School, showcased the work of her students to great acclaim. Her new book, Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me (Picador) looks back over her 30-year career in teaching.

Your school has turned itself around during the decade you have worked there, from the most under-subscribed school in your area to one of the most sought-after. How big a role did poetry play in that change?
There are lots of reasons for the school’s success but poetry is definitely one of them. It’s the cups principle: the more cups you win, the better you feel. And we keep winning poetry prizes at national level, which is great for everyone. We have built up a culture of success and confidence around poetry. Normally, the head boy of a school would be captain of the rugby team but our head boy, Mukahang Limbu, is captain of the poetry team.

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