First Story is excited to embark on a three-year pilot project funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. We’ve received a More and Better grant of £244,000 from the foundation which specifically funds established arts-based learning programmes to increase their impact and effectiveness.
The objective of the project is to develop an enhanced and sustainable Writer-in-Residence model that embeds a whole school culture of creative writing practice.
Partnering with eight secondary schools spread across the East Midlands, Bradford and Hull & Humberside, we hope to create this culture by enhancing three key elements of our existing programme: we aim to amplify our reach, invest in our teachers’ creative writing pedagogy and work more closely with senior leaders in schools.
Amplifying our reach
Over 1,500 young people participate in First Story’s core programmes each year. We hope to extend this by doubling the number of students we typically work with in our year-long programme, and by developing a new student ambassador programme.
First Story Writers-in-Residence will train students to become school-wide creative writing ambassadors, empowering them to lead creative writing initiatives, mentor their peers and build writing communities across their school.
The ambassador scheme also chimes really well with Ofsted’s new framework to measure how well schools nurture students’ personal and character development.
Investing in teachers’ creative-writing pedagogy
LKMco’s report on Arts Council England’s ‘Creative Writing in Schools’ programme found that ‘there is untapped potential to influence [teachers] who have had less opportunity to develop their creative writing pedagogy’.
Over the past decade there has been a false choice between technical writing skills and creativity in teaching the English curriculum (I speak as a former teacher and head of school). The focus on spelling and grammar and the pressure of testing has constrained teachers’ creativity and created a formulaic approach to the teaching of writing.
We will develop Continuing Professional Development (CPD) content tailored to the unique requirements of the school.
We will also support participating schools to become creative writing ‘champion schools’ where teachers will share their learning and best practice with other schools in their region. Investing in teachers’ practice will boost the status and value of creative writing school wide.
Engaging school senior leaders
We have learnt that engaging senior leadership teams in our work increases participation, retention and impact across the school.
This pilot will enable us to work collaboratively with senior leaders to ensure outcomes are aligned with the school’s development plans. We will also investigate more robust ways to measure the programme’s impact across the school, including impact on student attainment.
We hope the project will demonstrate to policy makers and the wider sector the value of supporting young peoples’ sustained engagement with creative writing and investing in creative writing expertise in teachers.
Through whole-school engagement we will develop a replicable programme model that will give students and teachers more power to shape what they get from having a First Story Writer-in-Residence at their school; and leave a long-lasting legacy for any school that partners with First Story.