National curriculum is damaging children’s creative writing, say authors

The Guardian is reporting that a group of acclaimed children’s authors is warning of what it calls the “very damaging” tendency for primary school teachers to steer children’s creative writing towards “too elaborate, flowery and over-complex” language to meet assessment criteria…

The authors, a growing group that already numbers 35, say that national curriculum assessment criteria have become a “prescription for how to teach children to write (to pass the tests), with quite adverse effects on their writing skills”.

This means, they say, that children are taught “not to use simple words such as ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘small’ or ‘big’ but to always find other more ‘interesting’ words to replace them – such as ‘wonderful’, ‘terrible’, ‘minuscule’ or ‘enormous’”.

They “are also taught never to use ‘and’ or ‘said’ if they can shoehorn in ‘additionally’ or ‘exclaimed’, and are encouraged wherever possible to use personification, metaphor, similes and subordinate clauses”, say the writers, who also include Carnegie medal winner and bestseller Tim Bowler, with other names in children’s fiction including Sophia Bennett, Mary Hoffman, Lydia Syson and Katherine Langrish.

The more complicated words are presented as “better” alternatives to children, the authors write in an open letter that they are preparing to send to the education secretary Nicky Morgan next week, so they “fail to understand the nuances of their use, and they also fail to realise that they are relatively unusual”, and that “they are used sparingly in good writing”…

More at: National curriculum is damaging children’s creative writing, say authors

 

Is there something to this suggestion from the children’s authors?

Are schools having to teach an overly elaborate style of flowery writing which may often not be the most appropriate approach?

Please tell us how you see it in the comments or via Twitter…

 

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Comments

  1. Nairb

    I spend a lot of time looking at children’s writing with teachers and what the authors say is absolutely correct, leading to some bizarre convoluted writing, often in response to the imstruction ‘You need to use more interesting adjectives.’ Teachers are well aware of the impact this is having but simply refer to the need to get as high a level as possible in the SATS. The whole education process is at risk because of high stakes testing.

  2. drsuzyw

    TeachFirst guardian agree! How can children write creatively if there is no space in the curriculum for them to be creative?

  3. drsuzyw

    TeachFirst guardian agree! How can children write creatively if there is no space in the curriculum for them to be creative?

  4. I’m old enough to remember O levels.  We were encouraged to use adjectives which resulted in us sticking adjectives on to every single noun.  And use adverbs.  This resulted in stuff like this:
    ‘The bold, resourceful thief silently approached the huge, grey safe cemented securely in the strong brick wall of the well-known national bank.’
    And never to start a sentence with And.

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