After teaching English in three Cheshire comprehensives schools, I was Deputy Head and English teacher at Maharishi School in Skelmersdale, where my students were renowned for winning creative writing competitions, including the Foyle Young Poets of the Year Awards, WH Smith Young Writers and Young Poets on the Underground etc. As a result, I was commissioned to write Jumpstart Poetry in the Secondary School during my time as Poetry Society poet-in-residence. I’ve broadcast on teaching poetry on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service, and my teaching has been the subject of feature articles in the Guardian and the Times Educational Supplement.
In addition to Jumpstart I have published on teaching creative writing in the TES and other journals, and have contributed to books on teaching poetry, most recently Making Poetry Happen: Transforming the Poetry Classroom (Bloomsbury, 2015). I played a leading part in several Poetry Society educational initiatives and have spoken on the teaching of writing at conferences, including UKLA, Writing Together and NATE. I have been Guest Poet for the TES and have led courses and workshops for many organisations including the Arvon Foundation, the Poetry Society, Ty Newydd, Moniack Mhor, the British Council, the Poetry School, universities and schools in the UK and abroad. I have led workshops for experienced writers and beginners, I have taught creative writing in HE, and I have worked extensively with teachers and student teachers.
COURSES & WORKSHOPS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE & CPD
Based on the approach described in Jumpstart Poetry in the Secondary School, these workshops are designed to get everyone writing poems, whatever their ‘ability’. My CPD courses demonstrate how to get young people writing poems and thereby improve their writing in all genres, how writing poems can improve students’ appreciation of poetry, and provide an opportunity for creativity. For primary schools I devise workshops and schemes of work to fit into ongoing themes and lead sessions for teachers on writing poetry in different subjects.
I am happy to discuss individual requirements, including writing in genres other than poetry, sessions on reading poetry and other literature, and work geared towards examinations. I can also give advice on raising the profile of poetry in school, publishing students’ poetry and entering competitions. For more information about my approach, including an argument for the importance of writing poems, see my introduction to Jumpstart Poetry in the Secondary School.
A TYPICAL SCHOOL VISIT
A typical school visit might consist of three or four workshops, each lasting approximately one hour, or one or two workshops lasting two hours, depending on the ability of the students. The ideal group size is fifteen students, though I often work with groups of normal class size. The focus is creative writing, particularly (but not exclusively) poetry.
The workshops are stimulating, accessible and challenging. The demands of writing and drafting poems, where every word counts, improves students’ writing and confidence in many areas, including writing in examinations. Workshops involve responding to a range of contemporary poetry and therefore increase confidence not only in writing but also in the close reading of poetry and other literature. They also provide opportunities for speaking and listening. Workshops can involve looking at all aspects of writing including point of view, tense, imagery, drafting and structure.
POST-18 STUDENTS & ADULTS
I lead courses and workshops for experienced writers and for those new to writing, sessions on creative writing courses both for undergraduates and MA students including lectures on poetics and contemporary British and American poetry, and sessions for PGCE students (primary and secondary) on reading and writing poetry in the classroom.
“poetry guru” – Guardian
“passionate about poetry” – Times Educational Supplement
“Three years ago, every member of Years 10 and 11 [at Maharishi School] won or was runner-up in a national poetry competition.” – Stuart Maconie, Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North (Erbury Press, Random House, 2008)
“Cliff Yates is a uniquely inspiring writing tutor, with a fund of lightly-managed knowledge, insight and experience. He is an amazing teacher and one of our very best poets.” – Peter Sansom
“Cliff Yates is an absolutely remarkable workshop leader and teacher of poetry whose own pupils have consistently won prizes in poetry competitions for young people. His book ‘Jumpstart’ is essential reading for teachers wanting to use poetry to inspire and amaze – and his own poetry is wonderful too. Cliff is one of the best in the country working as a writer in schools. Highly experienced as a teacher, he can inspire staff as well as pupils through workshops which get to the heart of what writing is all about. I recommend him for work with almost any age, from primary to adults.” – Chris Meade, Director of if:book & former Director of the Poetry Society
“Jumpstart’ is the best aid to the teaching of poetry since Sandy Brownjohn’s work of the 1980s” –Gordon Wilson in ‘The Teacher’
“The work that Cliff Yates has done for poetry with children, and for children with poetry, is exceptional and heartening. He is at once expert and inspiring – always proving how necessary it is to recognise that ‘creating’ is a vital part of ‘educating’” – Andrew Motion
“In this country, Cliff Yates is the foremost teacher of poetry in secondary education. Whether he is working with teachers or students, Cliff’s teaching unlocks the poet that all of us possess – even if we never knew it. I cannot imagine a secondary department not wanting a visit from Cliff” – Pie Corbett
“Cliff Yates is a regular and welcome visitor to Malbank School. He brings with him his unbounded enthusiasm for poetry and his conviction that all students have something to say and the ability to write it down. His own quirky and cleverly crafted poems always go down well with his audiences no matter what age and he has a battery of tricks and strategies to make a poet out of anyone – even the teachers!” – Lee Wilkinson, English teacher and Head of Performing Arts, Malbank School and Sixth Form College
“Many poets do workshops with young people but it is Cliff’s background as a teacher and his warm humanity that has made him a success with our pupils. His poetry is also very inspiring. The pupils seem to really feel good that they have not been written off by outsiders. This has been a huge boost to their confidence.” – Sian Beckwith, Russet House PRU, Gloucester
‘Cliff was an annual visitor to our PGCE Secondary English course, and it’s hard to encapsulate in a few lines the numerous benefits that our trainee English teachers (and their pupils) gained from his visits. He involved trainees in a stimulating and creative approach to poetry reading and writing, and he became a real favourite with trainees, who invariably highlighted his session as amongst their favourites, in end of year course evaluations. We asked Cliff to deliver his session early in the trainees’ course, so that we could emphasise the crucial part played by creative, active approaches in English teaching and learning. Many trainees used his ideas on placement, with real impact on pupils’ engagement and development.’ – Carol Evans, former Course Leader, PGCE Secondary English, Edge Hill University
‘The International School of Bern spent an inspirational three days with Cliff Yates. Cliff’s teaching experience and love of poetry really came to the fore. All the high school students were transformed into poets. Cliff encouraged everyone to put pen to paper giving students, from the shyest to the most flamboyant, confidence in their creativity. Cliff’s workshops are so inclusive, teachers were amazed by the poetry their students produced given the prompts and support Cliff provided. I don’t hesitate to recommend Cliff. He was also really easy to host!’ – Jill Van Niekerk, International School of Bern, Switzerland
“Cliff Yates offered a terrific session to my undergraduate and postgraduate students of poetry. Engaging, thought-provoking and very funny, Cliff entertained us with a selection of poetry from across his career before answering questions about his life, work and influences. My students were energised and inspired by his visit and we hope to invite him back!” – Dr Scott Thurston, Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing, University of Salford