Form and structure

The poem takes the form of four stanzas. The first two have an even eight lines. They describe the positive atmosphere of the primary school classroom. Stanzas three and four introduce the theme of change and growing up. Each has seven lines, which perhaps reflects the destabilising nature of adolescence.

Stanza one introduces an idyllic primary classroom. The speaker is spellbound by her teacher who makes learning an adventure. It ends on a note of happiness with the laughing school bell, calling the lessons and the stanza to a close.

In stanza two, Duffy continues to portray the same wonderful environment of a classroom, comparing it to a sweetshop. However, she juxtaposes the horrors of the external world (by including the names of Brady and Hindley) with the almost magical descriptions of the classrooms.

Structurally, while these names shock the reader, they have little impact on the rest of the verse, as they are enclosed within lines of positive description. But, like the "smudge" they leave behind, they do remind us that the innocence and joy of childhood is precarious thing.

Duffy introduces a turning point in stanza three. The time is Easter, when in the Christian calendar Christ rose again. It is a time of growth and new beginnings. And it is appositely at this point that the child speaker learns how she was born. It is interesting that this stanza takes place outside the classroom, as if this growth could not happen in the comforting bubble Mrs Tilscher created.

The final stanza describes the child's sexual awakening, as she experiences unfamiliar feelings and no longer finds the answers with Mrs Tilscher. Significantly, the poem ends with the speaker leaving the school gates perhaps to embark on the next stage in her life.