Many years ago, the Labour Party had the bright idea of engaging artists, celebrities and other media types to support the campaign efforts of the party. Entitled, Arts for Labour, the programme involved wheeling out celebrities and artists at key moments during the 1987 campaign. In hindsight (always a best friend, Mr. Hindsight), this may not have been a particularly effective use of many people’s time and energy: but one thing it did do was getting artists asking of the Labour Party, how about a Labour for the Arts parallel campaign? Or, what did the Labour Party ever do for the Arts?
This fell on deaf ears at the time but these days, what with schools engaging writers in a kind of Writers for Schools campaign, one might be tempted to ask, what about Schools for Writers? We might ask ourselves what did schools ever do for writers apart from pay them modest remuneration for a role which can be confused, disconnected and intended to provide short term attainment fixes to long term systematic problems?
Here are 6 things schools could do for writers if they had the health of writers at heart:
- Commission new plays from new, local playwrights rather than repeating yet another version of Willy Russell’s Our Day Out
- Install a writer in residence for a term with a brief to capture the ‘essence’ of the school which is not just flattering and designed for best possible impact in PR terms, but is critical and capable of shaking up a few well held preconceptions
- Role model creative writing by all school staff to students which encourages the development of voice, style and expressivity and goes beyond secretarial niceties
- Encourage the whole school community to read any kind of writing – literature, pop culture, graphic novels – for pleasure as opposed to reading for assessment, policy keepie-uppie, and duty.
- Appreciate that different authors give you new knowledge of the world – not just different perceptions of existing knowledge – and build that knowledge into the curriculum.
- And thanks to Ruth Pringle from Blue Noun... “Encourage blogging, social media posts. Loads of school kids are being massively creative on their own SM platforms. I guess schools don’t even see this, and I know unmanaged SM/kids a minefield but it’s a really valuable modern day skill which kids are developing themselves – often excelling in and being massively creative in without the school ever seeing/grading those skills. A resident writer working on a media project/website/blog could get them engaged and expressing themselves in really workplace relevant ways.“
More from the NOP Werkshop here.
You can also download the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE) research report on the impact of writers in schools, Class Writing here.
Please feel free to share your tips here too!