Creative Writing A Level
The A level was under threat of being cut this year but is now under reform.
Developed in close consultation with NAWE, and with higher education, A-level and GCSE teachers, the specification:
- provides opportunities to study creative writing as a discipline in its own right, distinct from English studies
- complements but does not overlap English Literature and/or Language study
- allows aspiring writers to trace a route through school or college on to higher education and into professional practice
- appeals to a wide range of students, including those studying other disciplines such as science or humanities
The full specification is now available and NAWE is in the process of creating a new resource to complement the teaching of creative writing.
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'Creative' is perhaps an over-used word, but 'Creative Writing' is the established name for the subject that has been studied for so long and so effectively at university level and which we are now so pleased to see offered at secondary level too. All writing, at its best, is 'creative' writing, which is one of the reasons why the subject should prove to be of real interest to pupils studying within a very wide range of other fields. Creativity in writing means invention, reflection, and detailed revision – all attuned to communication. Creative Writing is a subject where original thinking is to the fore, matched by a learning of technical skills that are invaluable in almost any walk of life. Few other subjects can rival its attention to fundamental, transferable skills.
The Creative Writing A Level offers education in the truest sense, an opportunity to explore – both the discipline and the self. As preparation for HE study it is ideal, enabling students to think independently and reach a high level of communicative skill in their written work. It also fosters a habit of extensive reading, as broad if not more so than English Literature study, where the focus is more exclusively on analysis of set texts.
Creativity shuns the perfunctory answer. It also demands an adequately long period in which work can be developed. The ability to sustain focus is an important aspect of any creative study and one of the great dividends in terms of personal development. The Creative Writing A Level caters for this well, while also addressing aspects of the professional writing life that are, by contrast, highly time-limited.
With the rigour of A Levels currently under scrutiny, the introduction of Creative Writing is most timely. It is a difficult subject, its expressive purpose being governed by complex technical requirements specific to a formidable range of different forms. It is also, however, particularly rewarding, not only for those writing students who, as in the case of visual artists or musicians, show exceptional aptitude, but also for any students wishing to acquire the communicative and imaginative skills that will stand them in good stead for any further study or employment. It's not just the Creative Industries (important as they now are) that thrive on such skills.
While technical accomplishment will undoubtedly be viewed as the key element of this A Level, I personally see invention as an equally core value. That is also why I'm thoroughly happy with the title. Creative Writing is not just concerned with competence in replicating a practice; its students are not just learning craft but flexing their muscles as entrepreneurs within our cultural future. The case of teaching 'new' technology has rightly highlighted how those 'in education' are also on the threshold of devising ever better solutions to our problems. We defer inventive thinking at our peril.
NAWE has for many years championed the work of professional writers visiting schools, and the A Level introduces a particularly fertile new context for such work. There are also likely to be new opportunities for writers to work within teacher development. Specific support will be required for teachers involved with the A Level but the benefits of writers working with teachers (as charted in our 2010 report, Class Writing) extend to all levels and across the curriculum, so we trust that the worth of any new provision will be recognized as something to be embedded within initial teacher training more generally. As Subject Association for Creative Writing, NAWE has a large membership of those that teach within HE but not of primary or secondary school teachers – hardly surprising when the 'subject' has been invisible. We hope this will now change, especially in view of general recommendations about teachers subscribing to sources of specialist subject support.
Meanwhile, our HE members are delighted that the clear pathway for young writers entering HE will continue, just as there has always been for those studying other arts. We have, within NAWE, always thought of education as a continuum, and it's been hard to accept the absurdity of the gaps. Finally – after a lot of hard work from committed individuals, especially those within AQA – we are joining the dots. The simplest of things can be the hardest won.
Paul Munden, NAWE Director