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Children and young people’s writing in 2021

Added 23 Jun 2021 | Updated 02 Dec 21

Listening to children’s experiences of writing during the first lockdown in spring 2020, it became clear that for many it had been a time of increased creativity, with children writing everything from songs and stories to scripts, and some even beginning their own novels. Another prominent theme in our research last summer was that having more time to write freely had increased children’s enjoyment of writing.

This report builds on those findings by highlighting how children and young people felt about writing in early 2021, a period that coincided with the third national lockdown in the UK. We also share children and young people’s perceptions of their writing during the first lockdown and subsequent return to school (for many) in autumn 2020.

Key findings include:

In 2021,

  • 1 in 3 (34.5%) children and young people said that they enjoy writing. This is the lowest level of writing enjoyment we have recorded since we first asked this question in 2010.
    • Writing enjoyment declined over the past year in all children and young people regardless of background, but boys on free school meals (FSMs) showed a particularly pronounced decrease.
  • Only 1 in 7 (15.2%) children and young people said in 2021 that they write something daily in their free time, which is the lowest daily writing rate we have recorded since we began asking the question in 2010.
    • Daily writing levels decreased amongst all children and young people regardless of background.
  • By far the most popular writing that children and young people do in their free time is text/direct messages (92.4%) followed by in-game communications (84.2%). Overall, more children and young people write five formats (song lyrics, diary, reviews, stories and poems) on screen now compared with last year. At the same time, the percentage who write these formats on paper decreased.
    • Comments suggest that children and young people thrive on feedback, while 3 in 5 (61.9%) children and young people said they write social media content at least once per month, suggesting platforms for sharing writing could be a key motivator.
  • 1 in 2 children and young people say that they write to be creative (53.0%) or to express their ideas and imagination (48.0%).
  • Writing continues to support children and young people’s mental wellbeing, with 2 in 5 (38.3%) children and young people agreeing that writing makes them feel better.
    • Indeed, writing provided a lifeline for many during the pandemic, with children and young people telling us that they started writing in the pandemic to cope with anxiety but also to stay connected with people.
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