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News story

We call for new focus on writing for enjoyment as research shows sharp drop in children writing outside school

02 Nov 2016

We've published new research today, which shows that just one fifth of children and young people (20.7%) write daily outside the classroom. This is a significant drop since 2014 when more than a quarter of pupils (27.2%) put pen to paper or wrote digitally every day outside school. In fact, more than a quarter of children (28.1%) now say they rarely or never write something that isn’t for school.

Children’s and Young People’s Writing in 2015, a report from our sixth annual survey of 32,569 pupils aged between eight and 18, also evidences a decline in pupils enjoying writing in their free time and a significant gender gap:

  • Just 44.8% of pupils said they enjoy writing either very much or quite a lot in 2015, versus 49.3% in 2014
  • While more than half of girls (51.9%) enjoy writing, only just over one third of boys (36.8%) do
  • Boys are twice as likely as girls to say they don’t enjoy writing at all (19.4% versus 9.1%) and that they never write (10.6% versus 5.1%)

This development could have a negative impact on school attainment, as children and young people who enjoy writing very much are seven times more likely to write above the level expected for their age, compared with those who do not enjoy writing at all (50.3% versus 7.2%).

Similarly, students who write outside school daily are five times more likely to have levels of writing above those expected for their age, compared with those who never write outside the classroom (30.9% versus 5.8%).

This drop in daily writing frequency outside school is in stark contrast to the huge increase in daily reading frequency; from 29.1% in 2010 to 43% in 2015. In addition, the drop in writing enjoyment contrasts with the steady annual increase in reading enjoyment evidenced in children and young people from 49.1% in 2010 to 54.8% in 2015.

Our Director Jonathan Douglas said:
“We are calling for a new focus on writing for enjoyment from both government and the education sector. The prioritisation of reading for enjoyment in schools, government policy and through third sector initiatives has reaped huge rewards at primary school stage, with increasing numbers of children demonstrating enjoyment of reading.

“National Literacy Trust research indicates an undeniable correlation between writing enjoyment and frequency, and attainment. Whilst the new curriculum focus on spelling and grammar and phonics is important, it must not come at the expense of encouraging writing for enjoyment by teaching the writing process and encouraging children to write for purpose and audience. We must seek to create a culture of writing within schools.”

Our author ambassador Frances Hardinge, whose children’s book The Lie Tree was named Costa Book of the Year, said:
“Hopefully we can inspire more children and young people to write for pleasure, in much the same way we have seen a heartening rise in recreational reading. Regular writing of any sort allows one to develop greater facility and confidence with language... and more to the point can be a lot of fun."

We offer advice and resources to help teachers deliver high-quality teaching that explores and celebrates writing with pupils across all key stages. In addition you can find resources to help create the right school culture and ethos to encourage young writers and to help develop positive attitudes to writing, as well as guidance on the latest writing curriculum and policy news.

See the resources here

Read the full report, Children’s and Young People’s Writing in 2015, here.

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