Children’s writing at ‘crisis point’ as enjoyment among pupils drops – report

The proportion of young people who enjoy writing in their free time declines as they go through the school system, survey finds.

Eleanor Busby
Monday 05 June 2023 15:44 BST
Children’s writing is at a ‘crisis point’ as the number enjoying it in their spare time dwindles, a report suggests (PA)
Children’s writing is at a ‘crisis point’ as the number enjoying it in their spare time dwindles, a report suggests (PA)

Children’s writing is at a “crisis point” as the number enjoying it in their spare time dwindles, a report suggests.

The number of young people who say they enjoy writing has fallen drastically over the past 13 years, according to the National Literacy Trust research.

Just 34.6% of those aged between eight and 18 said they enjoyed writing in their free time in 2023, compared to 46.8% in 2010.

The drop, coupled with a decline in writing attainment, suggests “we are no longer facing a setback but a crisis”, according to the charity’s report.

Writing for enjoyment needs to be encouraged, protected and nurtured as a priority

Jonathan Douglas, National Literacy Trust

It comes after only 69% of children met the expected standard in writing in the Key Stage 2 Sats in 2022, compared to 78% in 2019.

The report suggests the majority of children (72%) enjoy writing in their free time between the ages of five and eight, but this steadily decreases as they go through the school system.

Slightly more than a quarter (26.4%) of children aged 14 to 16 said they enjoyed writing in their free time, the survey said.

Overall, 71,351 children and young people aged five to 18 from 285 schools across the UK were surveyed online between January and March 2023.

Jonathan Douglas, chief executive of the National Literacy Trust, said: “Writing for enjoyment needs to be encouraged, protected and nurtured as a priority.

“The reduced scope for creative writing in the curriculum may be affecting children’s motivation and enjoyment for writing, which can, in turn, affect their confidence and literacy skills.

Our reforms – including the focus on phonics – are helping to ensure more children leave primary school with a secure grasp of reading and writing are clearly having a positive impact

Department for Education

“We also cannot underestimate the long-term effects of the Covid-19 lockdowns on children’s education, including writing stamina and practice, with children from disadvantaged backgrounds affected the most.”

Mr Douglas added: “It is perhaps not a surprise that most children start school with a love of writing in their free time, but this creativity is slowly lost as they progress through the education system. Our priority is to ensure this trend is stopped in its tracks.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our reforms – including the focus on phonics – are helping to ensure more children leave primary school with a secure grasp of reading and writing are clearly having a positive impact.

“Last month, England came fourth out of 43 comparable countries in an international study for reading despite the impact of the pandemic and also showed a narrowing of the attainment and gender gap.

“We want to continue to drive up standards which is why we are investing an additional £24 million in building children’s literacy and speaking skills as part of our ambition for 90% of children to leave primary school reaching the expected standard in reading, writing and maths by 2030.”

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