Tuesday 21 July 2015

Ted Hughes, radio and Secondary Modern School children

When we were making the programme about Ted Hughes's 'Poetry in the Making' ('Poetry in the Re-making' Radio 4 Sunday) I visited the BBC written archives in Caversham. In one of the first letters that the BBC Schools producer, Moira Doolan wrote to Hughes asking him to do some poetry programmes (and a couple for children on how to write a novel) , she says that she wants them to appeal to 'secondary modern' pupils (the assumption was that grammar schools would listen to the programmes anyway or could look after themselves). It's worth pondering a moment on this (and I know I have a vested interest in thinking that BBC School Radio was and is a good thing). A BBC producer is asking one of the finest up and coming poets of that time (it was the early 60s) to think of all children and school students and to think of them all as writers of poetry and fiction; don't 'stream' or 'select' or 'segregate' your comments. So, while the education system of the day WAS selecting and segregating with the eleven plus, Doolan and Hughes are thinking of how their broadcasts would and could not segregate.

BBC speakers sat in pretty well all state schools - they were big brown wooden things - and those few words that Moira Doolan said - and Ted Hughes responded positively to - represent an outlook to education and learning at that time. It was a commitment to a humanist and creative outlook towards all pupils.