Jump the queue for creativity

30th May 2003 at 01:00
Year 6 pupils have just had to endure one of the most boring tasks ever devised since key stage tests came into being.

They were asked to write for 45 minutes about standing in a queue to buy a toy. How can such a title inspire a creative response? They were given no choice about what to write and dire warnings had been issued that children must write to the prompt or marks would be lost.

The poor children couldn't even decide the sex of the main character, because the prompt clearly stated that it was a boy. (I know that we are trying to help boys to improve their writing skills, but isn't this taking things just a little too far!) The short writing task and the reading booklet both had elements that would appeal to the interests and enthusiasms of most children (toys and super-heroes) so that was good. And I know that examiners want to provide children with writing prompts that enable them to draw ideas from within their own experience, but standing in a queue? Even Shakespeare would have had trouble making that one exciting!

If the Government is serious about encouraging creativity in the primary curriculum the whole issue of testing "creative" writing has to be looked at again. How can a formal exam of a specified length be an effective way of measuring children's ability to express their thoughts through lively writing? It's time for a fresh approach!

Elaine Schack Deputy head Clayton CofE primary school Bradford

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