Five years on, still Writing Together

1st October 2004 at 01:00
Writing Together is now five years old. In that time we have reached more than 1,000 teachers and offered them financial help to set up writers' residencies in their schools. Three of us got it started: Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, Chris Meade, now at Booktrust, and myself. I shall never forget the excitement of the first time we secured Department for Education and Skills funding to help writers and schools work together. The promise of the idea has proved enduring.

Writing Together is a unique partnership. Organisations whose main business is writers, poets and books contribute their knowledge and networks: the Poetry Society, the National Association of Writers in Education and Booktrust, which also provides organisational and administrative support.

Arts Council England's expertise in regional arts provision and its interest in children's literature has also been invaluable.

The DfES has supported the group, particularly financially. The primary and key stage 3 national strategies have been pro-active in promoting Writing Together, and in working through their networks of consultants to help schools bring writers into the classroom. Representing the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, I have chaired the group from the beginning and helped to keep the project moving forward.

We are united about why Writing Together matters: working with writers inspires children and teachers to write in new, creative ways. It helps children understand what writing can do and that it matters to be able to write well. Standards of writing rise as young people learn these important lessons.

Working with dramatists, poets, novelists, journalists and many others, we have expanded our ideas about what writers in schools can offer. We know that day visits are worthwhile, particularly in primary schools, and in secondary schools we recommend longer residencies, so that pupils and writers follow through on both the pleasure and discipline of writing.

These are achievements to be proud of and we hope that many schools will join us in the Writing Together Schools Challenge so that more and more pupils can be inspired by working with writers.

Sue Horner is chair of the Writing Together steering committee and head of English at the QCA

* The cover picture by Stephen Pond of Newsteam shows writer and storyteller Wanjiku Nyachae with Year 2 pupils at Greenholm Primary School, Birmingham

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