Members of the Society of Authors (SoA) say current government policy on teaching children writing is destroying their enjoyment and creativity.
A statement from the Society’s Children’s Writers and Illustrators Group and the Educational Writers Group, posted online, says the “increasingly restrictive rules and testing” in spelling, punctuation and grammar threaten to “undermine children’s pleasure in writing and their powers of creativity and self-expression”.
The statement comes after children in Year 6 England have this month taken controversial new Sats tests. Some parents boycotted the exams, claiming they were stressful and too difficult for their children.
According to the SoA, current grammar teaching is “no longer reflecting what writing really does”. It explained: “This happens, for instance, when the Department of Education in England uses new terminology for grammatical structure (such as ‘fronted adverbs’)… These practices risk alienating confusing and demoralizing children.”
The statement continued: “We want teachers to be allowed to give all children the chance to love language, play with words, be bold and creative, express themselves – and to learn proper control of language alongside these joyful expressions...Amongst these children must be the next generation of novelists, screenwriters, biographers, poets and science writers.
“We therefore call on the Government to allow the current generation of schoolchildren in England to enjoy language, to be empowered by their skill in it, and not to become tangled in rules which have no application outside the narrow confines of a national test.”
The SoA said it welcomed support from colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, adding: “We call on the powers there to avoid falling into this damaging pattern of wrong-thinking.”
Author David Almond voiced his support for the campaign, saying: “Language is a fluid, flexible, beautiful thing. Children instinctively know this. They learn how to talk, to sing, to converse by falling in love with language, by delighting in their own skills, by sharing and exploring those skills with others. Learning to read and to write is a natural development of this process. Current government policy interferes with this process. We do our children great harm by insisting too early that they analyse and explain exactly what they are doing.”