ERG SES G 06, Learning and Education
A new national curriculum (sic) was recently introduced in England (DfE, 2014). The English orders are different from the previous orders (DfEE/QCA, 2007) in many ways, yet perhaps one of the most striking and controversial changes is the expurgation of the term ‘creativity’ (and any words containing the ‘create’ root). In its place is a focus on 'knowledge' and 'accuracy', the result of a former Secretary of State for Education's belief that students in England suffer from a 'knowledge deficit' (Hirsch, 2006). The renewed focus on knowledge and accuracy is now reflected in the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) examinations sat by all 15-16 year olds.
As an erstwhile English teacher and now English teacher educator working with many beginning and established English teachers, and in addition being active within our subject association and promoting the work of the National Writing Project (NWP) through running the regional Teachers as Writers group, this paper is taken from my PhD thesis, which is itself my response to having been addressed - or ‘called or summoned’ (Moules, et al: 2014: 1) - by the challenges posed to the English teaching profession from the new ‘creativity-less’ orders. The access I have to those influential within the subject body as well as to English teachers ‘on the ground’ in classrooms provides me with the opportunity to bring voices together and reflect on their perspectives with a view to commenting on the impact of the latest orders and making recommendations for future classroom practice.
In this paper, I focus in particular on the Dartmouth Conference that took place in 1966 at the University of Dartmouth, New Hampshire, USA, attended by academics and teachers from England and the United States. Together they sought to define what is meant by 'English' in secondary school/college contexts and, more specifically, how writing is taught; and the subsequent outputs - focusing on a child-centred, creative approach - were popular and influential in classrooms in both countries. However, in England, establishment reaction against this approach was one factor that led to the publication of the first National Curriculum in 1989 in a bid to control the 'climate of unchecked creativity' (Bullock, 1975:6). There have been battles around what the National Curriculum should contain ever since and, in tune with the theme of this conference, it has undergone 'constant change'. The question I seek to answer here is how do English teaching professionals report shifts in creative practice prior and subsequent to the advent of the National Curriculum and its various iterations? I seek to explore what representatives of the profession feel has been gained over the years since the Dartmouth Conference, and what has been lost, focusing for the purposes of this paper on creative writing.
I intend that the questions concluding the paper will inspire discussion on the value of creative writing in the teaching of English to secondary school/college students whose first language is English. The paper should also be of interest to those who use creative writing in teaching their own first language.
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