POETRY workshops are helping students at an Oxford school deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The sessions have been a regular occurrence over the years at Oxford Spires Academy in Cowley, but have become more important during lockdown.

Workshops have been held with local poet and author, Kate Clanchy, via Zoom, with poems then posted on social media.

Jackie Watson, vice-principal at Oxford Spires, said: “Kate has worked within all sorts of groups in the school and she’s had a whole series of poetry workshops with students throughout the years.

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“The poetry workshops are life-changing, and the confidence and articulacy in being involved in a poetry workshop comes out.

“We have refugee students right the way through the school and the poetry really helps them with their English.

“Some of these kids have gone through such horrors but through the poetry, Kate enables them to tackle these issues.

“The pupils have been doing what they normally do with her, which is lots of poetry coming to terms with what’s going on at the moment and what they want come the end of it.

“We’ve had people like Philip Pullman lauding our work and the posts on social media get thousands of likes and comments, which provides the pupils with further confidence.”


One student to reap the rewards of the sessions is Linnet Drury.

She said: “As the country locked down and work and school moved online, so did our poetry workshops.

“Over the last few months, we have met twice a week and we all say it’s kept us sane.

“The crisis has affected everyone and it has hit young people very hard.

“It’s hard to comprehend, and anxiety about the present and future is having a real impact on mental heath.”


Ms Clanchy said: “I’ve never really believed that poetry workshops could be taught online, but when lockdown started, I had to think differently.

“The standard of poetry in this group is stunning.

“These young people are shut up with their families at the very age when they should be out in the world, enduring the sight of a sunny day outside their own windows but unable to run out in it, and they have a lot to say about their confinement.”