January 20, 2022 - 11:41am

Author Kate Clanchy and Pan Macmillan parted company this morning “by mutual consent”. The publisher will cease distribution of all her work, following criticism of Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me in 2021.

Clanchy has been a qualified practising teacher since the age of 22. Her writing includes three prize-winning collections of poetry, the Costa First Novel Prize-shortlisted Meeting the English, and the Orwell Prize-winning Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me. 

The books cancelled by Picador include England Poems from a School and How To Grow Your Own Poem. These poetry collections introduced more than 50 young poets from diverse backgrounds — migrant, refugee, neurodiverse, wheelchair users — to the reading public. Writers who emerged from this work include the prize-winning poets Amineh Abou Kerech and Mukahang Limbu. Clanchy’s teaching practice, which nurtured the England and Friends books was the subject of a documentary for BBC Radio 3.

Clanchy’s Friend: Poems by Young People, an anthology by pupils at the comprehensive school where she teaches, was slated for March. Picador will no longer be releasing it.

Some Kids became the subject of online criticism last summer for its portrayal of young people. Authors Chimene Suleyman, Monisha Rajesh, and Sunny Singh accused Clanchy of writing problematic descriptions of her students. Society of Authors president Philip Pullman received heavy criticism for tweeting in Clanchy’s defence.

Picador did not defend Clanchy at the time, but her students — the subjects of Some Kids — did. Last September, at least 20 of them wrote an open letter to The Bookseller defending her. They said their personal experiences of Clanchy were of “unequivocal care and support for us… as poets and as people”. They said they wanted to push back against suggestions that they “may be victims in some capacity.” They said Clanchy’s support gave them confidence as poets.

Another former Clanchy student, Shukira Rezaei, wrote of her in the Sunday Times: 

Kate helped me find scholarships and helped me with my university applications. I went on to study politics, philosophy and economics in London, and I am now studying for an MSc in human rights and politics. I owe all of it to Kate, and I am sure she has done the same for many of her students. I feel very privileged to have met her.
- Shukria Rezaei, Sunday Times

This was not enough for Picador. A new version of Some Kids — to be revised in consultation with sensitivity readers — had been planned for last autumn, but it never appeared.

Commenting on the storm in the Telegraph last November, Picador publisher Philip Gwyn Jones said:

If I have regrets about our conduct during the Clanchy affair, it’s that we weren’t clear enough in our support for the author and her rights, as well as our condemnation of any trolling, abuse and misinterpretations that happened online.
- Philip Gwyn Jones, Picador

He later apologised for the comments. In December Picador distanced itself from Gwyn Jones, and Clanchy.