New Mills parents shocked at violent school newsletter

Roger McGough Wakefield Lit Fest
Roger McGough Wakefield Lit Fest

Parents have spoken of their outrage after a New Mills school newsletter featured a poem about children being throttled, garrotted and shot.

The letter, issued to Hague Bar Primary School pupils on the first day back of term on Monday, contained information on staff appointments and dates for diaries with The Lesson by Roger McGough printed on the back.

In the poem, a teacher employs a sword, a grenade and a shotgun to teach “latecomers”, “vandals” and “skivers” a lesson.

Linda Booth, who has two grandchildren at Lower Hague school described it as “totally unacceptable and in very bad taste”.

The 61-year-old, of Marsh Lane, New Mills, said: “In this era where schools are attacked with guns in USA and UK, terrorists in the street are beheading soldiers, grenades were used by the policewomen murderer Dale Cregan, the world is a nasty place without teachers bragging what they would like to do to our children in the classroom. This needs to be investigated by the education department and the person responsible suspended.”

On Tuesday the school sent a text message to parents saying: “Apologies if the poetry in the newsletter upset anyone. It was tongue-in-cheek and was designed to lighten the mood of a boring and heavy newsletter.”

Another parent, who did not wish to be identified, said he was “extremely disappointed and concerned” on receiving the “somewhat disturbing” newsletter and would not let his two children read it.

He said: “This poem is certainly not in keeping with children’s welfare and certainly no advert for the ‘no children left behind’ motto as the school prides itself in on its webpage, it is quite ironic considering the content. A number of other parents at the school are totally disgusted at this.”

The Hayfield dad added: “I know some people might think we’re being over the top and say it’s light-hearted banter but when it comes to my children’s safety I don’t find it funny.”

Headteacher Sue Kennedy said: “It was no way my intention to cause offence by publishing the poem in our school newsletter and I’m sorry if its inclusion has upset anyone.

“The Lesson by Roger McGough is a well-known, tongue-in-cheek, poem which is regularly studied across primary schools. It was included alongside a moving poem called Dear Teacher, which charts a parent’s feelings during a child’s first day at school – and was intended as a light-hearted end to the first newsletter of the academic year.

“I’ve had a number of comments, texts and emails from parents saying the poems were appreciated and made them smile, laugh and cry.

“I haven’t received any complaints from parents but will think very carefully about what poems, if any, are included in future newsletters.”

The Lesson

Chaos ruled OK in the classroom

as bravely the teacher walked in

the nooligans ignored him

his voice was lost in the din

‘The theme for today is violence

and homework will be set

I’m going to teach you a lesson

one that you’ll never forget’

He picked on a boy who was shouting

and throttled him then and there

then garrotted the girl behind him

(the one with grotty hair)

Then sword in hand he hacked his way

between the chattering rows

‘First come, first severed’ he declared

‘fingers, feet or toes’

He threw the sword at a latecomer

it struck with deadly aim

then pulling out a shotgun

he continued with his game

The first blast cleared the backrow

(where those who skive hang out)

they collapsed like rubber dinghies

when the plug’s pulled out

‘Please may I leave the room sir? ‘

a trembling vandal enquired

‘Of course you may’ said teacher

put the gun to his temple and fired

The Head popped a head round the doorway

to see why a din was being made

nodded understandingly

then tossed in a grenade

And when the ammo was well spent

with blood on every chair

Silence shuffled forward

with its hands up in the air

The teacher surveyed the carnage

the dying and the dead

He waggled a finger severely

‘Now let that be a lesson’ he said