Supporting teachers has always been an important part of First Story’s work. Through our flagship Young Writers Programme, we freely share creative writing classroom resources with our partner schools. We also offer complementary Continuing Professional Development (CPD) training for First Story lead teachers and colleagues.
During the pandemic, our CPD sessions necessarily moved online. This shift, ultimately, was the catalyst for an exciting rethink of our provision for teachers. Following a successful virtual INSET session, organised for a group of East Midlands teachers, facilitated by the writer and teacher Kate Clanchy, we saw an opportunity to embrace digital and enhance our offer for all teachers.
In the feedback from this Saturday morning session, all of the participating teachers stressed how valuable it had been to have Clanchy share her experience and insights from her own practice. In response, we got together a small steering group to review the learning and consider how we might develop our CPD content. The result was ‘Think Like A Writer’.
We commissioned one of our most experienced practitioners, Booker-shortlisted author Rachel Seiffert, to develop a new course which we could make available to First Story lead teachers at all our partner schools nationally, through twilight virtual delivery. ‘Think Like a Writer’ was conceived as a four-part programme, with sessions staged across the academic year. First Story writer and professional poet Jasmine Cooray was also invited to work with Rachel, to add a poetry-focused module to the course.
‘Think Like a Writer’ is designed to encourage teachers to develop their own creative writing practice. Participants undertake practical exercises and activities, learning new writing techniques from our experienced professionals. They then explore how to apply these activities and techniques in their own classrooms. Our new CPD model gives educators the tools to be better teachers of creative writing, whilst also supporting them to explore their own voices.
We piloted ‘Think Like a Writer’ during the 2021/22 academic year, with a small cohort of teachers from nine partner schools in the East Midlands and Yorkshire, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. The first session of the four-part course ran in March 2021, the second in November, the third in January, and the last session in spring 2022.
The feedback from our pilot cohort of teachers has been overwhelmingly positive.
Everyone who took part rated the course either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. All said they would recommend ‘Think Like a Writer’ to a colleague.
- 81% of participants said they benefitted from interacting with other First Story lead teachers.
- 87% said that workshops inspired their own creative writing practice.
- 87% felt that the strategies shared would inform their classroom practice.
- 87% reflected that they felt more confident about using creative writing strategies to support their teaching practice and that they had used the takeaway resources in their teaching practice between workshops.
Our pilot cohort of teachers were incredibly helpful in shaping and refining the content and format of ‘Think Like a Writer’. Many more teachers will soon benefit from our new complementary CPD, with a national roll out planned during 2022/23.
Helping more educators discover their passion for creative writing
To further support educators to develop their creative writing practice, we have partnered with the University of Cambridge to offer five bursary places for its PGCert in Teaching Creative Writing. The First Story bursaries are intended to support practitioners working in state-funded or non-profit organisations, such as non-selective schools, public libraries, local authorities, health or prison services. Each bursary awards £2,100 towards the cost of the part-time, one year course. Find out more here.