The very culture of the feelings

Plan of Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon prison, drawn by Willey Reveley in 1791

John Stuart Mill famously found in poetry “the very culture of the feelings” that rescued him from the oppression of Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian philosophy.  Today, a twenty-first century utilitarianism ordained by Ofsted exerts multiple modes of oversight over the minds and bodies of teachers and pupils.  Within an ever-changing inspection framework, early years readers and their teachers negotiate their way through Ofsted’s demands for phonics “fast and first” while senior staff play the Progress 8 game to maximise their school’s GCSE results.  The 2022 Ofsted English “Research Review” insists that pupils learn “the structures of language” before using these “across their spoken language, reading and writing” (Ofsted 2022, 5) – as if language were not learned by doing. 

In the last issue of English in Education, we published “found poetry” by English teachers who found their work “factory-like”. They valued writing as an “opportunity, [an] outlet for ideas and feelings”. The first issue of 2023 opens with three poems by teachers.  Sue Dymoke recalls the texture of tapioca in her school dining room. Sleiman El Hajj articulates the experience of teaching creative writing in a Lebanese classroom where affection may be implied rather than said.  Robert Hull evokes the peace of an US classroom about to be catastrophically violated by an armed extremist.  

The articles that follow all place the quality of classroom experience above performative duty.  Michael Rosen’s presence and publications have enlivened classrooms well beyond the UK.  In her review of his new book What is a Bong Tree?, Mari Cruice reflects on the ways Rosen has influenced her life and work – and that of many others.   

One of Rosen’s passions, classroom talk, is given a post-pandemic and technological turn in the following two articles.  Working with pre-service teachers, Jennifer VanDerHeide and Mandie Bevels Dunn explore ways of using multiple communicative modes in virtual spaces.  Lucinda Kerawalla and her colleagues report on students’ perceptions of Talk Factory, a visual classroom technology to aid participants structure their talk.  

The final articles in this issue approach the relation of pedagogy and knowledge in the curriculum.  Trace Lahey evaluates three teachers’ interpretive approaches to a poem by Walt Whitman in terms of their affordances for students.  Bill Green reflects on the work of Margaret Meek Spencer and James Moffett to consider the ways in which a literary text itself provides curricular elements of both pedagogy and knowledge.  

English in Education 57.1 will be published online within the next week or two. NATE members and journal subscribers will receive printed copies by post. To join NATE, please see contact details on the right.

Under which king, Bezonian?


Reading the recent Ofsted Curriculum Research Review of English brings to mind Pistol’s reply to Justice Shallow when he tries to claim authority under the king: ‘Under which king, Bezonian?’ (2Henry IV, v.iii).  ‘Bezonian’ might be applied to Ofsted’s strangely shallow ‘research review’, which casts grave doubt on the capacity of the government’s inspection agency to inform the curriculum.

Ofsted was set up in 1992 as a schools inspection agency alongside the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority (SCAA). From 1997 it worked with SCAA’s successor, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).  Both SCAA and QCA consulted the profession on the school curriculum.  However, the functions and influence of the QCA were steadily reduced.  In 2007, Ofqual (the government qualifications authority) assumed the regulation of examination and assessment boards, and the QCA was formally dissolved in 2010.  

Throughout this history of frequent change, Ofsted remained separate from the curriculum and assessment agencies.  Significantly, however, the Ofsted Report of 2012 stated that the Department for Education should highlight research to be promulgated by Ofsted.  By 2019, following the minister-led campaign to promote ‘powerful knowledge’ and ‘cultural literacy, Ofsted’s Education Inspection Framework stated that inspectors will judge schools on the extent to which their curricula are ‘designed to give all learners the knowledge and cultural capital they need to succeed in life’.  Ofsted’s view of the nature of such a curriculum is given in its Curriculum Research Review of English, issued in 2022.

Historically, 2022 might be noted in the UK not only as the start of a new reign but also as the year in which government brought education in England under one body that would control both what was taught and how it was taught.  Thirty years after banning publication of the Language in the National Curriculum (LINC) report for its refusal to endorse a simplistic view of language education, government has achieved hegemony over schooling in English education.   If teachers fail to conform to Ofsted’s curricular prescriptions, Ofsted’s inspectors will doubtless place schools in punitive ‘special measures’.  

A separation of powers between the curriculum and inspection agencies is intrinsically desirable, especially when the inspection body has so little apparent understanding of the English curriculum and of learning in English.  The 2022 Ofsted Curriculum Research Review claims to reflect expert knowledge of the ‘concepts, facts, processes, language, narratives and conventions of each subject’. But this is not the case.   The review posits a view of English primarily in terms of skills and processes to be taught prior to engagement in language in use. This does not align with the construction of the subject that has been developed over many years or with the practical experience of English teachers at every level. Language, as John Dixon wrote in Growth through English, is learned in operation.  The research drawn on is extremely limited and partial, and referencing frequently fails to support the claims that are made.   The response from NATE’s fellow organisations, the English Association and the English and Media Centre, has been highly critical: the EMC has called for the Review to be withdrawn.

English Education has a rich and complex history over three centuries. As John Hardcastle pointed out over twenty years ago, even the best-known movements in English teaching – the Arnold-Eliot-­Leavis tradition, and the progressive tradition of James Britton and his associates – are a part but not the centre of the story.  We may not expect government to appreciate the influence of Enlightenment philosophers in framing the concept of ‘growth’ that has long informed English teaching.  But we do expect a curriculum authority to exhibit an understanding – a critical understanding – of the theory and practice of English education as it has developed over the decades since the Newbolt Report of 1921. 

In these circumstances, the importance of professional networks, including subject association publications and journals, is greater than ever.   A special issue of English in Education in 2024 (sixty years after the first issue of NATE Bulletin, the predecessor of English in Education) will develop this theme.   

This post is an abridged version of the Editorial for English in Education 56:4, to be published in November 2022.

Taking her work on

Margaret Meek Spencer at the London Institute of Education, 1988. Photo courtesy of Sally Greenhill

The forthcoming special issue of English in Education (Summer 2022, 56.3) is devoted to “taking on” the work of Margaret Meek Spencer, who influenced the fields of early literacy, children’s literature, literacy policy and English teaching over seven decades. The editors, Judith Graham and Colin Mills, write:

In orchestrating this special issue, we wanted to encourage others to “take on” some of the themes within Margaret Meek Spencer’s life and writing. We used “taking on” in two senses: to engage with some of the ideas that she developed in a writing life of over 60 years; and to take forward some of these to clarify some of the challenges that we all now face in our differing professional contexts and communities. 

Some of our contributors knew Margaret Meek Spencer as an influential tutor in their education as teachers. Others were less familiar with her work but have engaged with her ideas with freshness and sharp scrutiny.   We warned our contributors against nostalgia and “passionate generalities inherited from the past”. They all write with immediacy and urgency, looking forward rather than backward. 

Teresa Cremin and her colleague Helen Hendry reflect on their literacy histories: their experience of learning and teaching literacy at all stages. The “thread of autobiography” that was woven through Meek Spencer’s writing career leads to the authors’ scrutiny of important contemporary research that could be integrated into our policies and practices.  The notion of literary histories was central to Meek Spencer: we enter into literacy at specific historical moments. This is one of the underlying themes of Lucy Taylor’s article. She deftly mobilises one of Meek Spencer’s central conceptual tools, the notion that we are all “taught by texts”, applying this to understand the changes in reading and writing practices that contemporary children acquire, with careful guidance. Taylor’s reading of the 1988 publication “How Texts Teach” (Meek, 1988) is inspiring; with hindsight we now realise its importance for other contributors. 

Andrew Green and Roger Dalrymple apply readings of this same 1988 book, with appraisals of some of her other writing, to guide us through an understanding of “evocations of reading and story making as processes of inquiring; of researching into mystery”. Taking their evidence from their reflections on the reading of detective fiction, they show how we can apply those readings to develop our understandings both of “how books work” and of extending membership of the reading clubs and networks, in ways that are not always encouraged in contemporary policy and pedagogy. 

We were delighted to receive a poem from Jeffrey B. Javier, a reader of the journal who is based in the Philippines.  Many former students recall that Margaret often used poetry to make a point or illuminate an idea In her teaching and writing.  We thank Jeffrey; we want the poem to speak for itself, and acknowledge that he has given us a timely image of the small child who “picked a small book for the first time and drank from a spring that had been slaking me space and flowering worlds ever since”. 

Dominic Wyse and Alice Bradbury explain some of the pedagogical implications and the political imperatives of the present government’s adherence to the teaching of phonics as the first foundation of literacy knowledge and skill.. In an important valedictory lecture at “the Institute” in 1990, Meek Spencer (Meek, 1992) argued a compelling case as to how phonics often represented a way of keeping power and control over tightly drawn pedagogy. She never questioned the importance of symbol to sound connections; neither do these authors. But they, as did she, argue for other crucial kinds of literacy knowledge. 

Andy Goodwyn’s article connects to the important questions of “whose knowledge counts, and why?”, questions which suffused Meek Spencer’s writing. Goodwyn offers a clear and original counterpointing of what was regarded as important by policy makers at different stages and with Margaret Meek Spencer’s concerns and priorities as a scholar of literacy.  These contrasts yield some fascinating dissonances andmake for illuminating and informative revisiting of important texts in the history of English teaching.

Mark Innes and Colin Mills offer a reflexive account of their research into the enactments and consequences of the new kinds of literacy knowledge that are disseminated by novel non-State agents: leaders in Multi Academy Trusts and commercial consultants. They work at probing questions that are implicit in both Wyse and Bradbury’s and Goodwyn’s accounts. Whose knowledge? Whose literacy/ies?  They ask whether there is now space for the kinds of questioning and critique that gave rise to NATE’s formations in the post War context. 

A central focus in Meek Spencer’s work was that teaching in general, English teaching in particular, was not just a process of enacting what was politically expedient. John Perry adopts a practitioner-based stance towards current changes in policy and on the nature of the English curriculum. He re-reads Meek Spencer’s 1988 text and skilfully applies the arguments there to contemporary schooling and pedagogy.  How are reforms to accountability, the curriculum and examinations “read” by his practitioners?  Perry positions his teachers as thinkers, as well as doers; his conclusions give indications about what activist practice could be.

We hope that this collection of articles, representing dialogues with the future as well as the past, will help your thinking and your practice.  Margaret Meek Spencer would probably have been intrigued by our reading of Julian Barnes’ (2022) recent novel, about a mature man and woman, trying to write a tribute to their former teacher, but being overwhelmed by their memories of her. The heroine asks at one point, explaining this difficulty: “Do you see what I mean? The shimmer of her phrasing, the lustre of her brain.” 

This special issue will be published online within the next week or two and NATE members and journal subscribers will receive printed copies by post. To join NATE, please see contact details on the right.

Spaces for English

Michael Rosen

Michael Rosen’s poem English Teachers introduces the next issue (summer 2022) of English in Education. Michael evokes the atmosphere of the assembly halls of the 1950s and 60s that some of us well remember. Here English teachers created theatre with their students with the help of make-up, stage directions and realistic props.  

Zoe Jaques and David Whitley write about poetry memorisation. They suggest that an ’embodied’ poem exists in an inner space where the learner might engage with the text in a personal, exploratory way.

Sean Ruday and colleagues examine the different ways in which their students enter the spaces of fictional texts: sometimes seeking to recognise themselves, at other times observing and empathising with characters in communities very different from theirs. 

John M. Richardson investigates students’ experience of live theatre – a space very different from young people’s digital habitus. He argues that a well-prepared theatre trip can engage students and lead them to reflect on the exigencies of different modes of representation.   

Christina Hedman & Scarlett Mannish examine ways in which mother tongue English students in a Swedish school transformed the emotional space of online learning, while William D. Barlow and James McGregor explore teaching about terrorism, suggesting that poetry and drama can help students to “restory” themselves in and against the dominant forms of discourse of the mainstream media. 

Alex Corbitt and colleagues discuss students’ reading of ‘unnatural’ e-literature, where the relative instability of the digital text is exacerbated by unnatural narratology. They  found that most readers tried to naturalise and explain the text, while some held textual contradictions in their minds without trying to resolve them. 

The nature of reading, and of meaning, has preoccupied English educators for much of the subject’s history. I review Dandan Zhang’s book Literary Criticism, Culture and the Subject of ‘English’. She shows how F.R.Leavis’ lifelong engagement with the work and ideas of T.S.Eliot influenced the development of Cambridge English and hence some of the principles and practices of English education today. 

This issue will be published online in a few weeks’ time and members of NATE will receive print editions by mail.

Poetry in Education

A poem written in a graffito from Cartagena, Spain in the second to third century. Photograph: José Miguel Noguera Celdrán

The spring special issue of English in Education (56:1) examines the cultural importance of poetry and poetry in education. The Editors, Julie Blake and Gary Snapper, write in their Introduction:

“For forty years or more, much of the discourse about poetry in education has constructed poetry teaching and learning as an especially difficult professional problem to be solved … Indeed, we have both written in different ways about ‘the problem of poetry’.  For this special edition, however, we were keen to advance a research agenda that goes beyond this slot.”  

The issue contains a rich variety of articles and, indeed, poems. The first three articles focus on poetry within contemporary culture. Kevin A. Morrison evaluates poetic links between a university and its broader urban community.  Jess Edwards and colleagues discuss the multilingual poetry writing competition founded by Carol Ann Duffy.  Andrew Green shows how Dalgit Nagra’s new collection British Museum explores links between the historic and canonical and the contemporary and multicultural.  

The following articles explore classroom approaches to poetry. Edward Collyer and colleagues explore ways of allowing open-ended interpretive talk in response to a poem.  Joy Alexander traces the neglected history of the reading aloud of poetry in schools. Kieran O’Halloran demonstrates how university English students create new interpretations of poems in videoed form, using “mashup” digital techniques and contemporary cultural styles.  

The articles are interspersed by poems, some written specially for this issue, that directly address the experience of teachers and students in contemporary multicultural classrooms.  Alecia Beymer and Scott Hardie’s concluding article takes as its subject teaching poetically. Their themes resonate in all the papers.

This special issue will be online shortly, and print copies will reach subscribed members within the next few weeks.

ENGLISH IN EDUCATION 55.4 (Autumn 2021)

Keith Davidson

This issue is dedicated to Keith Davidson, a collegiate member of NATE for nearly five decades. Keith reminded us that speakers of English in the UK constitute only about 16% of Anglophones world-wide. He believed that English should in the future become part of a broadly conceived language curriculum. This vision remains important. In their reflective account of teaching pupils in UK primary education for whom English is an additional language, Louise Bailey and Hannah Sowden demonstrate the importance of inclusive classrooms with teachers who understand multilingual ways of working.

Over the last two years, Victoria Elliott has led English in Education’s international priority setting exercise for English Education research. The results suggest that social justice and racial equity are major drivers for English educators. John Perry speaks to UK teachers who, despite the pressures of a narrowed curriculum and terminal assessment, attempt to “re-culture” the English classroom to challenge pupils’ perceptions about race and their communities. Amy Vetter and her colleagues describe how teacher talk in one US secondary English classroom shaped critical conversations about institutionalised forms of privilege and oppression.

Hong Zhang shows how students of English can use data of lexical co-occurrences to increase their understanding of natural language. Margaret Merga and colleagues engage over 300 Australian secondary school teachers in a study of the challenges of supporting struggling literacy learners. Laurie Smith’s poem brings a contemporary resonance to Alfred Noyes’ The Highwayman. Finally, Furzeen Ahmed reviews Marcello Giovanelli and Jessica Mason’s Studying Fiction: a guide for teachers and researchers.

The autumn issue of English in Education will be online within the next week, and members should receive the printed journal by the end of the month.

Grammar and poetry

Can grammar help us enjoy poetry?

The relation between teaching grammar and literature, especially poetry, has aroused heated debate for more than a century.   Sir Henry Newbolt, author of the first government report into the teaching of English in England, wrote that “formal grammar and philology should be … kept apart … from the lessons in which English is treated as an art, a means of creative expression”.  The Newbolt Committee were “strongly of the opinion that in dealing with literature the voyage of the mind should be broken as little as possible by examination of obstacles and the analysis of the element on which the explorer is floating”.  Newbolt was thinking of the teaching of classics in grammar schools, where attention was paid to grammar rather than to literature, and the contemporary dry analysis of dead languages.  The Newbolt Report recommended that the study of English literature should not meet such a fate, and since 1921 the teaching of grammar and literature – especially poetry – have been uneasy companions in classrooms across the English-speaking world.

The uses of grammar

Grammar means nothing more nor less than the rules or laws of language: the ways in which words work together to create meaning.   As Peter Trudgill and others pointed out decades ago, we learn these implicitly: without such knowledge, communication would not be possible.  Nevertheless, is implicit knowledge enough?  Living in a world where words are used to confuse and deceive as well as enlighten, we need to get a handle on the way language works.  Since the pioneering work of Michael Halliday in sociolinguistics, much work has been done in the last 50 years to develop such grammatical knowledge.  Most recently, Debra Myhill and her team at Exeter University have shown that some kinds of explicit knowledge can assist students in their own writing.  It can also help us enjoy reading, including reading poetry.

What kind of grammar?

Let’s look at the first lines of Edward Thomas’ poem The Brook.   

Seated once by a brook, watching a child

Chiefly that paddled, I was thus beguiled. 

Mellow the blackbird sang and sharp the thrush

Not far off in the oak and hazel brush,

Unseen.  There was a scent like honeycomb

From mugwort dull. And down upon the dome

Of the stone the cart-horse kicks against so oft

A butterfly alighted.

A traditional grammatical analysis would say that the first phrase is participial, ‘seated’ being an adjectival participle.  More recently, people will call it an adverbial phrase – indeed a fronted adverbial, a term made notorious by the primary school grammar tests.  Both views are plausible, but neither can be proved by external reference, and the choice of name doesn’t help us understand the way the words work.   What does it matter?   When grammar doesn’t connect with anything outside itself, it may appear not only difficult but useless.

Once more with feeling

But if we read the poem with feeling, we notice that Thomas creates an atmosphere of reverie and enchantment from the first lines.   How does he use language – grammar – to do this?   A good exercise with students might be to get them to write the lines prosaically. Here is an example:

I was sat by a brook once, watching a child paddling.  It enchanted me.  The blackbird sang mellow and the thrush sang sharp in the oak tree and the hazel undergrowth.  I couldn’t see them.  The mugwort had a scent like honeycomb.  And a butterfly alighted on top of the stone the cart-horse often kicks against.  

The words in the prose account are in the usual order, the subject preceding the verb: “I was …”; “it enchanted … “; “the blackbird sang”.  This subject-verb relation is so common that students will easily be able to relate it to their existing linguistic knowledge.  It then becomes easy to see that Thomas changes the usual word order, often putting the verb much later than would be expected.  This is especially clear in the first two lines, where the verb is entirely delayed – nowhere near the beginning of the sentence, but right at the end.  This enacts the beguilement: the reader is taken into the experience of watching, the sense impressions of the brook and the child paddling preceding the onset of enchantment.  A similar effect is created in the lines ending “a butterfly alighted”. 

To analyse the poem in this way, to understand the way Thomas disrupts usual word-order to create the poem’s particular pleasure, is a helpful use of grammar.  It is a grammatical analysis that most people will readily understand, because of their lifetime experience of the usual order of prose.   A helpful grammatical analysis of word-order and verb placement makes more sense than the near-theological discrimination of phrase types, because the reader can draw on their wider reading and experience when thinking about the language and what is described.


The current issue of English in Education is about Grammar in Schools: policies, politics and pedagogies.  Several of the articles are available open-access to everyone.   For more details, see the next post.

Grammar in Schools: policies, politics and pedagogies

Our special issue Grammar in Schools: policies, politics and pedagogies is online and will shortly be in print. The three articles starred (*) below can be accessed freely by anyone, even if you are not (yet) a subscriber to the journal.

Ian Cushing writes in his editorial that post-2010 policies in England’s schools are driven by deficit-orientated notions of “raising standards” and “closing gaps” which fail to recognise the linguistic dexterity and creativity that students – and teachers – bring to school with them. A range of international writers discuss issues of grammar in physical and online spaces, highlighting the agency of teachers as innovative practitioners but also the ways in which linguistic knowledge is constrained and controlled by top-down policies.

John Hodgson and Ann Harris’ Make Grammar Great Again? * offers a genealogy of grammar policy in England’s schools. Tracing discourses about grammar from the eighteenth century through to the present day, the authors dispel the myth that there was ever a “golden age of grammar”, pointing to the deeply embedded, perpetual reach of the standard language ideology which has long worked to subjugate and silence non-standardised language practices.

Starting with the notion that varieties of English are arranged hierarchically in society, schools and the linguistic market, Ruanni Tupas’ Fostering translingual dispositions against Unequal Englishes presents a case study of a teacher in a Singapore classroom who “deploys strategies in subtle ways to address unequal Englishes to make the teaching and learning of English less harmful to students whose linguistic repertoires are undervalued – or suppressed – by the educational and political establishment”.

Ian Cushing and Marie Helks’ Exploring primary and secondary students’ experiences of grammar teaching and testing in England * shows how students reproduce narrow ideas about grammar focused on decontextualised rules and notions of correctness, despite their teachers claiming to resist this in their own pedagogies and approaches. Data also reveals how state-mandated grammar tests work as a de facto language policy in shaping students’ experiences, memories and perceptions of grammar.

Clara vaz Bauler’s Flipgrid netiquette: unearthing language ideologies in the remote learning era offers, for the first time, an account of language and body policing in digital environments, showing how teaching materials “fall into a continuum between creativity and control of students’ language choices and social behaviours”. The research is timely and highly applicable given the global shift to online learning as a result of Covid-19.

Debra Myhill’s Grammar Reimagined: foregrounding understanding of language choice in writing, * based on Myhill and her team’s rich history of research, argues for a re-imagining of “grammar” in which a curriculum is built on descriptive, critical knowledge about language and taught with pedagogies which have a clear purpose for grammar governed by choices and “what ifs?”. Central to this is “the importance of making connections for learners between a grammatical choice and how it subtly shapes or shifts meaning in their own piece of writing”.

Jamila Lyiscott’s poem Three ways to speak English provides a fitting conclusion to the special issue. The poem challenges the listening practices of white authoritative bodies such as teachers, professors and parents. Lyiscott shows us how she uses her linguistic creativity and deftness to interrogate the racialised and colonial ideologies of standardised English and the deficit conceptualisations of “articulacy” within these.  This poem was originally created as a spoken word piece. A video of Jamila performing the poem can be found at

English in Education

Issue 55:2 (April 2021) is now published online.

 Secondary Shakespeare in the UK: Velda Elliott asks teachers what governs their choice of Shakespeare plays

“Acting a Play Helped Me”: Caroline Powell works with year 8 pupils on A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Teaching Self-critical Empathy: Omri Cohen’s IB students study The Tortilla Curtain and Half of a Yellow Sun

Three Readers of Ibsen: students discuss A Doll’s House as undergraduates and seven years after their university study

Howling at the Scrabble-Board: a trainee teacher’s “autistic lens” gives her reading a strong affective component

Literary Theory across Genre Chains: Robert LeBlanc shows how a senior high school student develops her understanding of literary theory over three weeks in relation to her study of Albert Camus’ short story The Guest

Experiencing Fictional Worlds : Jessica Mason explores recent research on reading fiction and cognition

Taking on the work of Margaret Meek Spencer: call for papers for a special issue in summer 2022

Print copies of this issue will reach NATE members and international subscribers early next month. To join NATE, follow links on the right of the screen or contact

Write for English in Education: upcoming special issues

Next year (2022) English in Education will feature two special issues:  Poetry (Issue 1, February) and Margaret Meek Spencer (Issue 3, August).    We invite contributions for both, as well as for the general issues in May and November.  Please read on for details of both issues and how you can contribute.

Issue 1: Poetry

Edited by Gary Snapper and Julie Blake

We invite contributors to submit papers for a special edition of English in Education focusing on the teaching of poetry and its role in the curriculum and beyond.

We encourage both academics and classroom practitioners to submit papers, and hope to feature a range of approaches to researching and teaching poetry, including exploration of:

  • texts and pedagogies which are associated with successful and inspirational practice
  • continuing debates about the nature of poetry’s place in and beyond the curriculum
  • historical perspectives on the teaching of poetry

Some of the questions we hope that this edition of the journal might touch upon include:

* What kinds of poetry pedagogy – texts and approaches – are effective?

*What do we hope to achieve through the teaching of poetry?

* What are the implications of recent approaches to poetry focused on memory and performance, and how can these be successfully deployed?

* To what extent does our poetry curriculum allow for diverse and multicultural approaches, and encompass the broader popular culture worlds of verse, rhythm and song?

*  What kind of ‘knowledge about poetry’ do we need to teach?

* How do we allow teachers to develop the specialised knowledge of and enthusiasm for poetry which is needed to teach it effectively?

* What is the role of ‘personal response’ in students’ work on poetry?

* To what extent are perceptions of poetry as beneficial in times of crisis helpful?

* Do we have the right balance between creative and critical approaches to poetry?

* To what extent is the view that poetry is a problematic element of the curriculum helpful?

* How do we evaluate the privileged place accorded to poetry in an English curriculum which has radically de-privileged aspects such as literary non-fiction, film and media study, and ‘knowledge about language’?

* What is the relationship between poetry, examinations, and assessment?

* How has poetry fared in the growing high stakes assessment culture?

Please prepare your submission in line with the journal’s guidelines for authors, available here:   Submissions should be made via our ScholarOne site,,  by 7 May 2021.   Please select the correct ‘Special Issue’ as the Manuscript Type.  To discuss a possible contribution, please email or

Issue 3: Margaret Meek Spencer

Edited by Judith Graham and Colin Mills

Our retrospective on Margaret Meek (English in Education 54:3) reflected on her writing and lecturing from 1948 until 2013 and her extraordinary influence on learning in English and literacy. For this special issue, we invite articles that are prospective, reporting on research and/or practice or critiquing work in the field of literacy and English teaching and learning.  What does her work offer today, in a very different context of schooling and teacher training (a word she resisted)?  We use the term ‘taking her work on’ in a double sense of arguing with or against her ideas.  ‘Am I right?’ is a question she’d often ask in lectures or tutorials. Also, ‘taking on’ covers the sense of developing her ideas to meet challenges that she could not have imagined, or which came after her time.

Articles might address some of the themes that Margaret worked on throughout her life:

  • the learning and teaching of reading and writing
  • literature for children and the power of texts
  • information books – what she resisted calling ‘non-fiction’
  • ‘cultural’ and multicultural perspectives on literacy and new literacies
  • teachers’ learning, both professional and personal

Papers may start with pieces that she wrote, contributors re-reading these in the light of today’s challenges. The concept of ‘redescription’ was one close to her heart. We don’t want to (and here we quote Margaret) ‘trammel what you want to do by the language we use to describe what we’d like to see’. But, we will, if you wish, suggest a paper, chapter or book of Margaret’s, from which to start, develop, ‘redescribe’.We’d be happy to receive draft completed articles (between 4,000 and 6,000 words) by 31st January 2022.  We want the process to be as inclusive as possible and will give full and constructive feedback.

The FINAL date for submissions will be 31st March 2022.   Submissions should be made via our ScholarOne site: Please select the correct ‘Special Issue’ as the Manuscript Type.  Please prepare your submission in line with the journal’s guidelines for authors, available here:  All submissions will be anonymously peer-reviewed.   Please contact us at any time: