On June 12th and 13th, the Centre for New Writing ran a two day residential course called ‘Teaching Creative Writing at Post-16 Level: For Teachers Who Write (Or Want to Write)’. Many attendees will teach the new A-level in Creative writing at their schools and colleges from September. One of these pioneers was pleased but shocked to discover that demand is high: she will oversee ten classes of twenty-five pupils from September this year. Other teachers are keen to convince their schools and colleges to adopt the new A level in Creative Writing. They were sent to investigate the value and viability of teaching it.
The AQA exam board rightly argues that teachers of the A level in Creative Writing should be practising writers themselves. The course therefore develops teachers’ confidence and identity as writers. During the course, they experience a range of situations that their own pupils will have to face in class. This is a challenging but necessary component of the course. As one delegate put it: ‘the course is right out of my comfort zone and therefore so beneficial’. The teachers participate in writing workshops themselves before considering in detail how to adapt tried and tested tools of the trade to their classrooms. Building on teachers’ knowledge and understanding of craft, the course also draws from the Centre for New Writing’s range of expertise to provide specialist talks about some key principles and techniques for writing radio plays, fiction, poetry and memoir.
As participants remarked on several occasions, good teachers need to get away from it all to reflect on their practice. The course itself was held in the university’s beautiful council rooms, where teachers wrote, created and reflected on their own skills as writers. In the evening of the first day they attended a dinner with one of Britain’s leading innovators of poetry, Daljit Nagra, in the Lady Hestor room at College Court. Daljit read from all three of his highly-praised collections of poetry and then discussed the poetry craft in a memorable after-dinner conversation with the group. Nagra is a keen supporter of the new A-level. As he said to the group: “There isn’t enough creativity in our schools. The new A-level redresses this by affirming the validity and importance of creative writing in pupils’ development’.
Feedback for the course was universally positive, with participants writing that the course made them feel ready to teach creative writing pupils using the knowledge and skills provided by the course. One teacher wrote: ‘Just can’t fault this course…This is the first time I have written this about any course anywhere!’ It is a key goal of the Centre for New Writing to promote excellence in creative writing pedagogy. We are confident that this is an important first step towards achieving that aim.