The Ministry of Stories hopes to provide an inspirational and instructive model for how writers, writing and the local community can be brought together; a place where professional skills and experience can be deployed where they are most needed; and an accessible, visible and surprising space that demonstrates the difference that writing can make in local neighbourhoods.
The Ministry of Stories:
- Believes there is a clear need for activity that will improve the writing skills of young people. Statistics from the DCSF (below) demonstrate this requirement to raise attainment.
- Has carried out consultations with local schools and curriculum advisors in East London to understand how the project will benefit the area. These consultations have found the project could make useful interventions and create new models of learning not just in the development of young people’s writing, but also the learning of English as an additional language and children’s overall engagement with the English curriculum. This is particularly crucial at the transition point from primary to secondary education.
- Is continuing to develop the programme in consultation with schools to ensure that it meets local needs.
- Comes from a proven stable. The statistics published by 826 National [www.826national.org] and Fighting Words [www.fightingwords.ie] on their websites demonstrate the evident success of their teaching and learning models.
- Has trained a pool of volunteers, workshop leaders and mentors drawn from the local community and across London.
The Ministry will deliver three exploratory strands of writing workshops for different representative groups of young people:
- Primary school students visiting to write and publish a book in 2 hours as part of a classroom “field trip” to the Ministry of Stories
- Primary and secondary school projects over a number of weeks, with a strong
- An after-school drop-in workshop for young people interested in developing their writing in their own time.
For the first six months, the programme was evaluated qualitatively by external consultants, and proved a success with teachers and pupils. On average, 100% of primary teachers surveyed rated the Ministry of Stories as a very successful learning environment, engaging children and producing high quality writing. 97% of pupils surveyed rated the experience positively. One teacher commented:
'I think the session really helped those children who struggled with confidence when it came to writing. They were able to produce something really special that they were proud of and help them to realise they are all good writers.'
A sample case study of an 11 year old girl who attends the after school writing club reveals the following: “Nia says she did not enjoy writing before MoS. At the beginning, she would try to complete tasks as quickly as possible and wouldn’t open up or allow herself to put time and personal effort in to writing something meaningful; she was keeping a distance, not confident to express ideas or try. However, this has changed. 'Now, if I get asked to write a short story at school, guess how many paragraphs I write? TEN!' she says with obvious pride. She is much more motivated to get involved, put time into her work and finish it.”
(Taken from ‘A Whole Mind of Writing: Evaluation Report 2010/11’ by Hannah Wilmot. Further information available from the Ministry of Stories.)
Reading and Writing Levels of Attainment
The following statistics of educational attainment in the UK National Curriculum are the latest national averages taken from the DfE website 2011.
81% of children achieved Level 4 (the level they are expected to achieve) in English in the 2011 Key Stage 2 tests, according to the Department of Education. 84% of pupils scored Level 4 in Reading and 75% in Writing, but boys scored significantly lower than girls in both tests. 80% of boys achieved level 4 in Reading (compared to 87% of girls), but only 68% of boys (compared to 81% of girls) achieved Level 4 in Writing, compared to 80% of boys who scored Level 4 in Mathematics.
Scores were much more consistent in Science, where 84 per cent of pupils achieved Level 4 (boys, 83%, girls, 85%).
According to the Literacy Trust report 2011
One in six people in the UK struggle with literacy, which means their reading and writing skills are below the level expected of an eleven year old.
An estimated 370,000 parents in London struggle with literacy, which means around 1 in 5 parents may not be able to read confidently with their children.
According to the OECD report on international reading levels (2009)
Britain was ranked 47th out of 65 nations in a table based on the number of teenagers who read for pleasure.
Around 40 percent of teenagers in the UK do not read for enjoyment outside school, according to the 2009 report.