Once a cornerstone of English pedagogy, poetry has experienced a dramatic decline in the school curriculum over recent years. This shift represents more than just a change in academic priorities; it signifies a broader cultural and educational loss, depriving students of a rich source of emotional expression, critical thinking, and linguistic artistry.

The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) and Macmillan Children’s Books carried out a survey of primary school teachers last year that found poetry is read aloud less than once a week in 93% of schools. The findings also discovered that almost one fifth of children never have the opportunity to hear a poem read aloud. While 77% of teachers said that they taught poetry at least once per school term, the survey found that nearly a quarter of schools teach poetry only once a year or less, somewhat due to a lack of training and support for teachers. How did we get to this point of damning numbers?

Trip Down Memory Lane

Traditionally, poetry held a significant place in education. From ancient epics to modern free verse, poems were used to teach language skills, cultural heritage, and critical thinking. Recitations and memorisation of poetry were common practices, aiding in the development of memory, public speaking, and appreciation of rhythm and meter. Figures like Shakespeare, Wordsworth, and Frost were household names, and their works were considered essential reading. Rosen and Nesbitt’s works have been preciously shared around classrooms in more recent times, however, it seems this once pillar of English curriculum now collects dust in classroom book corners.

How Poetry Fell Down the Pecking Order

The decline of poetry in the curriculum can be traced to several factors. Primarily, the increasing emphasis on core subjects such as maths and science has shifted the focus away from the arts and humanities. While the importance of STEM cannot be overstated in our technology-driven world, this focus has often come at the expense of a well-rounded education that includes the arts, with poetry being perhaps the most notable victim of this shift in focus. With schools chasing results and league tables, assessment of student’s comprehension, grammatical and writing skills have smothered any space for poetic study to take place.

Standardised testing has reshaped educational priorities. Tests that emphasise multiple-choice questions and quantifiable results tend to side-line subjects like poetry, which are harder to assess through standardised methods. The pressure on schools to perform well in these tests has led to a narrowing of the curriculum, often pushing poetry to the margins.


There is also a misconception that poetry is inaccessible or irrelevant to modern students. This view overlooks the diverse and dynamic nature of contemporary poetry, which addresses a wide range of experiences and issues. When students are not exposed to this diversity, they miss out on the opportunity to see how poetry can reflect and shape their own lives.

Impact on Students

The relegation of poetry in education deprives students of numerous benefits. Poetry fosters emotional intelligence by allowing students to explore complex emotions and situations in a nuanced way. It encourages empathy and understanding, as students engage with perspectives different from their own. The recent coverage of the writing crisis in schools surely lends itself to a poetic resurgence. Through the study of poems, students enhance language skills and discover the world of rhythm, beat and imagery. The concise and often complex nature of poems requires careful reading and interpretation, which can improve literacy and critical thinking skills too, as well as help develop memory and oral communication skills.

Cultural Consequences

Beyond the classroom, the decline of poetry has broader cultural implications. Poetry is a vital part of our cultural heritage, offering insights into historical contexts, societal values, and human experiences. When poetry is neglected in education, we risk losing touch with this heritage and the unique insights it provides.


Just how the great Shakespeare explored social imbalance and class divide, poetry has always been a vehicle for social change, giving voice to marginalised communities and addressing issues of injustice. The absence of poetry in education diminishes its potential to inspire and mobilise young people around important social issues.


To address this decline, educators and policymakers need to recognise the intrinsic value of poetry and its benefits to students’ development. Integrating poetry into the curriculum does not mean reducing emphasis on other subjects but rather enhancing a holistic educational approach.


Practical steps can include incorporating contemporary poets who speak to the diverse experiences of today’s students, using multimedia resources to make poetry more accessible and engaging, and creating opportunities for students to write and perform their own poems. Cross-curricular approaches that integrate poetry with subjects like history, social studies, and even science can demonstrate its relevance and utility.

Mount Rushmore of Children’s Poetry

The world of children’s poetry is rich with vibrant voices that captivate young readers with their imaginative and whimsical verses. Among the best children’s poets is Shel Silverstein, whose playful and often poignant poems like those in “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and “A Light in the Attic” have enchanted generations. Dr. Seuss, known for his rhythmic, rhyming tales and inventive language in books such as “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham,” continues to be a cornerstone of children’s literature. Another notable figure is Jack Prelutsky, the first U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate, whose collections such as “The New Kid on the Block” delight with their humour and clever wordplay. A.A. Milne, the creator of the beloved “Winnie-the-Pooh” series, infuses his poetry with a gentle charm and timeless appeal. These poets, along with others like Roald Dahl, Michael Rosen and Langston Hughes, offer a treasure trove of lyrical stories that spark the imaginations of young minds and foster a lifelong love of reading and poetry.


A Final Take

The demise of poetry in the school curriculum represents a significant cultural and educational loss. By side-lining poetry, we deprive students of the opportunity to develop critical emotional and cognitive skills, to connect with their cultural heritage, and to engage with the world in a meaningful way. Reviving poetry in education is not merely about preserving an art form but about fostering a more empathetic, literate, and culturally aware generation. To neglect poetry is to overlook the profound ways it can enrich and transform our lives.

How Educater can help

Time to re-energise your poetic offering? Whether you are planning to include more poetry as part of the English curriculum, or another curriculum, Educater is a flexible assessment tracking solution that will help you analyse data and monitor everything you teach. With any of Educater’s tracking tools, you can build a new curriculum from scratch or edit a pre-built curriculum that is already uploaded on the system.

Poetry is not just a valuable resource in the English curriculum that teaches students about their cultural heritage and the power of language; it also creates empathy and social awareness.

If you want to add more poetry into English this year, then just edit and adjust the English curriculum in Educator. If you want to create a brand new curriculum to teach poetry as part of a cross-curricular project or as a way of measuring a specific skill, such as critical thinking or emotional intelligence, it is just as easy to build the new curriculum in Educater or copy and paste it from your own system.


Educater is a totally bespoke, flexible system that reduces teacher workload and allows you to track and monitor student progress in any curriculum.

About the Author

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Andrew Timbrell

Andrew Timbrell is a primary teacher and freelancer writer with over a decade of classroom experience, passionate about teacher well-being and personal development. Alongside his teaching and subject lead roles, he has been a part of senior leadership and is acutely aware of the wider, holistic view of education.

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