Children’s writing at 'crisis point', charity warns

The National Literacy Trust has published new research indicating that children’s writing has reached a crisis point, with only 1 in 3 children (34.6%) in 2023 saying they enjoy writing in their free time.

While 3 in 4 (72%) children enjoy writing when they start school, this drops to only 1 in 4 (26.4%) by the age of 16.

This is alongside a rise in children leaving primary school without reaching the expected levels in writing: 1 in 3 (31%) in 2022 vs 1 in 5 (22%) in 2019.

The National Literacy Trust's previous research found that there is a clear link between writing for enjoyment and writing attainment, with children who enjoy writing “very much” seven times more likely to write above the expected level.

Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive at 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. We need to prioritise writing for enjoyment and recognise its important in helping children express their thoughts and feelings as they make sense of the world around them.”

To encourage writing for enjoyment, the National Literacy Trust run several different programmes, each tapping into different motivations for writing – creativity, expressing feelings, wellbeing – and help us support the writing of as many children as possible. Many of our programmes are available to all schools, though some are created and delivered specifically for schools in areas of low literacy.

Its Young Writers Programme collaborates with world-famous partners, like Wicked the Musical, Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap theatre show, and the BBC’s 500 Words competition, as well as Writing for Wellbeing clubs and Young Poets workshops. It offers a range of resources and evidence-based writing projects and support for schools exploring genres as diverse as mystery, comics and journalistic writing to inspire and engage children with creative writing.

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