Without creative writing and creative thinking, where would we be? There would be no books, no songs and no leaps into the unknown.
On Tuesday night at the Guildhall in Bath, Paper Nations held their event “How can we keep creative writing alive in our schools?” At this point, I struggle to know what to write. I went into that hall with what I thought was a clear idea of what I was going to hear but came out with something completely different.
The panel was made up of five people who play various roles within the areas of children’s creativity, learning and the book trade.
- Julia Eccleshare – Writer, broadcaster and lecturer, and the Guardian’s children’s books editor.
- David Almond – Multi-award winning author and professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.
- Francesca Beers – Associate head at Easton CE Academy, Bristol, and trainer at Talk4Writing.
- Bethany – a volunteer with the Youth Poetry Project.
- Jacob – Member of UK Youth Parliament representing local young people.
Creative writing is a topic close to my heart, and as soon as I saw this talk in the festival guide I knew I had to go. I thought that, like some other talks I’d attended, it would be about what initiatives we can create to solve the problem. When I came out, I was amazed at how many initiatives are already there.
Creativity in education takes a nosedive at 11. While at primary school, it is a key part of the school day, every day. But when pupils progress to secondary schools, creativity can often come second to the need to produce exam results.
“The end goal isn’t to create a whole person, the end goal is to create someone who can pass an exam, preferably with a good grade.”
Creativity is still alive within secondary schools, but the other pressures mean it doesn’t always get the time it needs. Literacy co-ordinators and English teachers are often left with the responsibilities of supporting creative writing. But the truth is that anyone in a school can encourage creativity if they have the right knowledge and training.
Julia Green, an author and senior lecturer at Bath Spa, favours the whole school approach. This gets all members of staff in the school participating in creative training. Extra training and support where it’s needed can make all the difference to furthering creativity in schools.
Authors working with schools on longer term projects. Authors are always willing to visit schools and do talks, but budgets unfortunately don’t always stretch as far as you’d like. With some collaboration between schools and authors, programs could be developed that fit specific requirements. e.g. pupil premium funding for disadvantaged pupils.
Skills hubs. Several people spoke about the difficulties of finding the right person or resource for their needs. One school has a database where they compile skills from new parents at the school. This sort of compiled information would help organisers within schools find resources quickly in their area.
So many people at the talk mentioned groups and events that I had not heard of, so below are a selection of them that might help you on your path to developing creative writing and creativity.
By fostering creative writing in communities and schools for the benefit of children and young people everywhere, Paper Nations aims to change the landscape of creative writing education for good.
They ran this excellent event and I can’t wait to hear more about their ideas and strategies. Click on their logo to visit the website now.
Live Tales is the fantastic creative writing centre for children and young people at Live Theatre in Newcastle. They put on workshops for Key Stage 2 children and encourage collaborative work as well as independent creativity.
Visit their site and listen to An Introduction to Live Tales, and the importance of creativity in young people, by centre-champion David Almond, Christina Castling and Gez Casey.
Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books
As well as visiting Seven Stories, you can take a look at some of their initiatives, like Reader in Residence, on their website.
5x5x5 ran the well-received Forest of Imagination in June 2016 around Bath Abbey.
Boomsatsuma are working with Easton CE Primary and their Artist in Residence.
Curious Minds is a company dedicated to improving the lives of children and young people through great art and culture.