A BRADFORD poet has called on the Government to reassess the decision to make poetry optional for English Literature students and inspire a life-long love for words.

Sharena Lee Satti, who has run a number of poetry writing workshops in the district's schools, warned that losing poetry from the curriculum would affect more than just language skills but confidence as well.

The decision was made by Ofqual after teachers felt they would not have enough time to learn the whole curriculum for GCSE English Literature.

In a consultation with school leaders, nearly half of people opposed the plans to leave the English literature assessment unaltered, as they said pupils found it difficult "to get to grips with complex literary texts remotely".

Under the new plans, each student will still be assessed on a Shakespeare play, but they now have the option to cover poetry, a 19th century novel or a post-1914 work of British fiction or drama.

For Sharena, it is the chosen poets for exams that make it hard to understand, not poetry itself

Sharena said: "I just wish poetry was highlighted for what it is today, raw, real, passionate, for the expressive art form it is.

"Every kid I have met in school think poetry is cr*p because of the way the system teaches and showcases it. As much as many admire Shakespeare, it doesn't reach out to these kids and, to be honest, I never got it either. When I share my poetry, and other people's, to the same kids, something just sparks in them like 'Eh, why can't we learn about this? Why can't we be taught about expressing ourselves through this?'. It's fun and engaging. I have seen kids who are super shy read in front of their class with confidence. I have seen the kids who cause disruption in their class sit still and listen and write incredible pieces of poetry that really shocks their teachers. Poetry is needed in the educational system, just not as its taught now."

Listing one example of how poetry had changed a pupil's life, Sharena told how she worked with a young dancer, who was shy and did not enjoy poetry previously, and helped him pair poetry with dance.

His teacher told Sharena that she was in shock after seeing his enthusiasm.

Syima Aslam, director of Bradford Literature Festival, agreed that making poetry optional will be a 'great shame'.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A poem written by one of Sharena's workshop studentsA poem written by one of Sharena's workshop students

Pictured above, a poem written by a student in one of Sharena's workshops.

Speaking to the Telegraph & Argus, the director said: "This has been a difficult year for everyone and it is understandable that exam boards are looking to relieve some of the pressure on teachers and students given the months of lost teaching time. However, it will be a great shame to lose poetry from our classrooms. If poetry has been chosen because it is deemed to be less popular or more difficult, then questions should be asked about why it is that students struggle to grasp the subject and what can be done going forward to make poetry more relatable.

"This is one of the things we focus on through the BLF Schools Programme: bringing students face to face with poets writing and performing today, who are reflective of their own backgrounds and life experiences. Poetry is the art of self-expression, a way to make sense of our deepest emotions, communicating the most important issues of our day and speaking truth to power, all of which are of huge importance to young people, perhaps now more than ever. I hope to see a renewed interest in the subject when the English literature syllabus returns to normal in 2022."