Aim: To inspire and enthuse a greater number of students to undertake creative writing; particularly boys.
Background: Students at William Farr are well behaved and engage well in lessons. The students like to rely on teacher input and we are working hard to inspire them to think and work independently. One focus for the school is raising the achievement of boys, particularly in English, and challenging the perception of English as a “girls’ subject”.
Year 1: The usual English topics were put on hold for a creative writing week for Years 7-10, themed around ‘Writing legends’ - Year 9 focused on graphic novels, which boys particularly enjoyed. Links were made with Waterstones and authors were invited to speak. The best pieces were selected to be published, and 42% of these had been written by boys. 97% of students reported that they had enjoyed the week.
Year 2: This year the event’s length was doubled, allocating more time for the lessons and allowing students to access workshops. Different authors were invited into school each day to run workshops and their feedback was very positive. The theme was ‘Dreams and nightmares’. A successful poetry slam was held with 29 separate entries from Year 8 students, and the evening was extremely well attended by friends and family. Again, nearly half the material selected for publication was by boys.
Year 3: The two-week focus was maintained and the theme this year was ‘The English Revolution’ – topical with the general election. Due to exam pressures, the sessions were unfortunately limited to Years 7-9. A full and engaging timetable allowed students access to more events, again with different authors every day, and there was very positive feedback from students. The school won the regional Poetry By Heart competition and steps have been made towards establishing a smaller creative writing group to run throughout the year. Discussions with Writing East Midlands have begun about creating a potential Writer in Residence, and discussions with feeder schools have taken place regarding involving Year 5 and 6 students.
Evidence: Student, staff and author feedback, pieces of writing produced by students.
Impact: The annual event has been extremely popular and the quality of work very high. Students have been more engaged in reading, with copies of visiting authors’ books flying off the shelves. Pupils have had the chance to showcase their work and staff have enjoyed the chance to move away from the curriculum and are keen to retain the event in future years. Student feedback has focused on the enjoyment of the freedom to write independently and the opportunities to hear visiting authors.
Reflections: Challenges have been in organising the event as it has grown in scope, and publication of pupils’ work has proven expensive and challenging. Without the school’s generosity in covering visiting authors’ expenses it would not have been possible. Links with universities and feeder schools could be explored further.
Contact: Susan Meggett, email@example.com