Writing cannot flourish in an hour

4th August 2000 at 01:00
I READ with interest the article "Concern over writing mounts" (TES, July 14).

A few months ago I was involved in an exchange of letters with an adviser to the National Literacy Strategy. She disparaged writing-workshops and treated the term "creative writing" with a high degree of contempt.

In the light of the growing gap between reading and writing standards maybe she and other proponents of the strategy should revise their views or at least show some humility in considering other opinions.

Two points arise. First, there will always be a gap between reading and writing, but one as big as at present might lead us to question whether reading standards are really as high as claimed.

Reading amounts to more than the information retrieval that seems to dominate the thinking behind the literacy hour. Low writing scores suggest that there are huge gaps in genuine reading ability (in which pleasure should figure prominenty). After all, a good writer has to be a good reader.

Second, writing depends, among other things, upon a synthesis of sustained concentration, creative stamina and the will to write well, not just an aggregate of formal skills, however necessary they are.

An approach such as the literacy hour which is over-dependent on the accumulation of discrete skills is hardly likely to achieve that synthesis successfully.

Creative writing should be a core feature of the primary curriculum. Too many schools are retreating from it altogether to gain marks in "easier" letter and non-fiction writing. It is time to challenge the dogmatic and rigid adherence to the strategy.

Quality children's writing depends on a style of learning the National Literacy Strategy's more zealous proponents seem keen to reject.

Alan Gibbons

Primary teacher and children's author

13 Chatsworth Avenue

Orrell Park, Liverpool

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