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Proposed Qualification for Writers in Schools
Tue 29 May 2012
Arts Council England, in conjunction with CCSkills, has drafted a consultation document to which NAWE members are invited to respond.
NAWE is offering the following response to the consultation document (attached). If you would like to offer your own response, please follow this link to the survey:

We should also appreciate you leaving your comments below. That way we will be able to incorporate your opinions in our own negotiations.

Together with other national organisations supporting the professional development of artists, we are concerned that few of us have been offered involvement in the process to date, which we feel has resulted in a draft proposal that is very wide of the desirable mark.

There is, for instance, far too much emphasis on acquiring knowledge related to children and young people’s development, and to health and safety issues, especially given that a) this is only a level three qualification; and b) creative practitioners will not – and should not – be working alone with young people at this level. Units 1, 2 and 5 therefore need to be scaled back and revised to reflect the actual practice of artists working with young people and the needs of those who are employing them as artists, not as child development workers. The proposed qualification actually goes against all models of good practice established.

Equally worrying is the cited subtext of a ‘licence to practise’, not least because the qualification does not seem to allow for accreditation of prior learning. If any such qualification is to gain wide acceptance and offer quality assurance to schools (which we assume is the rationale), it must work for the numerous highly experienced and knowledgeable creative practitioners already working successfully. They must be able to gain credit (and credits) for their existing knowledge and understanding. Any other approach would be highly divisive and liable to cause employers considerable confusion.

There is of course already a considerable range of CPD available for artists working with children and young people, much of it carefully tailored for a particular artform, and contextualised by emerging National Occupational Standards for community and participatory arts that this Certificate seems to ignore. All these standards and qualifications must relate if they are actually to be of use.

There are many other issues that need discussion. For instance, we applaud the fact that most of the learning outcomes in the new unit 4 are to be assessed in a real-work environment, but this should surely apply to unit 3 too. Is there any reason for the inconsistent approach? Such questions – and many more – need answering, but there would seem to be little purpose in addressing such niceties until the fundamental problems with the proposal are addressed.

We should like to propose that the qualification is re-conceived, with input from all the professional bodies dealing with artists engaged with in this field.
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Contact Information:
National Association of Writers in Education
Contact Name:
Paul Munden
Contact Email:
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News Comment History:

Tue 3 Jul 2012
I am in favour of anything that supports the important work that visiting artists do in schools and helps us to develop our practice. Unfortunately the emphasis of this proposed qualification is on health and safety and on fitting in to an education system that is all too curriculum bound, and the proposers of this qualification appear to totally misunderstand the role of visiting artists. The value of visiting artists to the young people we work with is that we demonstrate ways of thinking and working 'outside the box'. This qualification is all about teaching artists to operate within the box. Yes, section 4 - Planning - for artists new to communicating what they do - is useful. Section 5 - Behaviour - has some merit, particularly to those new to school environments and Section 6, in an age in which, like it or not, we must assess everything we do - could also be seen as supportive. The rest appears to assume that artists work alone with children, which should never be the case, and shifts the responsibility for child safety from staff to the visiting artist. This proposal needs to be re-thought, preferably by people who understand what artists actually bring to schools. Tragic to see that this proposal is supported by Arts Council England.
Posted by: Chris Speyer
Wed 27 Jun 2012
What a preposterous dream world document devised by insurance companies and lawyers. You aren't going to be getting any resilient, brave, creative people out of this morass, just dull box tickers and sleepwalkers.
Posted by: Lachlan Creagh
Mon 18 Jun 2012
Like most of the commentators here I am concerned about yet another qualification required. I worked as a creative writer in schools a few years ago - because I had no formal teaching qualification - I was paid much less than other practitioners undertaking exactly the same job. I was also asked by a local college to take a test in literacy in spite of the fact that I have a BA in an arts subject (I would hope that this means I am literate. At the time I was doing an MA in Creative Writing! This didn't seem to mean much. However I managed to get them to back down after I spending two days (unpaid) hassling a government department. However I was still required to undertake another course for 30 hours.I always happy to undertake professional development but it seems few of my many qualifications and experience are now accepted. Whatever happened to transferable skills and accreditation of prior learning? Only the bureaucrats can make decisions now. We are not to be trusted. And, I would like to know, who watches the watchers?
Posted by: Bronwen Griffiths
Mon 11 Jun 2012
I heartily endorse NAWE's response. Writers go into schools as writers, not as teachers or teaching assistants. They should never be left with a group of children without the teacher, both for safety reasons and for pedagogical reasons. The teacher must know what the writer has said and done. Writers inspire children to read and write because they themselves are readers and writers. This is the important aspect of writers working with young people. The whole document needs re-thinking from scratch.
Posted by: Liz Cashdan
Mon 11 Jun 2012
I abhor this document and its tick-box approach. As a "cover-all" document, it seems to miss out the essential qualities of each art form and go for a blanket certification that bears no relation to the skill of the artist/writer or to their body of work or familiarity and confidence with children and schools. The document seems to ignore the quality of the visiting writer, the expertise and experience of the writer, the differing range and variety of sessions that visiting authors may bring to the school, as well as the varied needs and management styles of staff and schools or the hours many schools are prepared to dedicate to a visit, especially beyond the hours of the visit itself. It does not make clear how this certification is to be financed or by whom. Is it to be another system like the CRB checks where different authorities and organisations can all require the writer to undertake "certification" at £75.00 a time? Hw often will it need to be udpated? Will writers have to produce their Certifiate before going into schools? (Despite suggestions to the contrary, I am still often asked for my CRB by secretarial staff when entering a school.) Besides, the document does not make it clear who is to do the assessing, nor give any reason for this certification, except as another document. Who is it who wants this Certificate? Who has actually suggested it, asked for it, needed it? Where are the tales of "bad" artists and writers that prove this is needed? Where are the teachers who do no research into their visiting authors or, having asked them along, do not keep an eye on what goes on in the sessions? Is there to be a ticksheet on the teacher's laptops for them to complete during the visit? This whole proposal seems to me to bear little relationship to the work of writers in schools or recognition of their skills as writers and as school visitors and adds another layer of bureaucracy to the whole process of having a writer in school. This is a bad move at time when many schools seem to be struggling to afford visiting writers or have been led to view them very much as "extras." It also seems to suggest the writer should have a greater responsibility for the class/audience than fust with current insurance arrangements.
Posted by: Penny Dolan
Wed 6 Jun 2012
QCF for artists and writers? What a pointless and facile idea! I am a qualified teacher and trainer with qualifications to Masters level...none of which, in my opinion make me better as a writer working in schools! Surely, the writing (and art) is a creative response and not just a teaching model-otherwise why not just become a teacher? The units suggested are interestingly aligned to the Level 3 Teaching Assistant course which I currently teach...6 of the 8 are directly taken from the QCF and only two seem to respond in any way to the creative elements of the job! I am incensed at this idea because it seems heavy handed and over weaning! When visiting school authors and artists are rarely if ever alone with children and presumably if one was so dire and ineffective then I would assume you would not be invited again. Equally, is it an author's or artist's role to hold responsibility for Health and safety, Equality and diversity or even Safeguarding-beyond the basic CRB etc? Surely, the school holds this responsibility.Why would it be useful to an artist or author to learn about child development...overkill? I teach the 6 aforementioned units-yet I would have to undertake these to acquire entry into schools! Ridiculous-particularly as most QCF courses allow APL (Acquired Prior Learning) to be taken into account! I have been a teacher for 20 years until being made redundant in the first set of cutbacks-writing was a life line-changing from part time/hobby to occupation. In many ways it was quite liberating to move from the heavily restrictive confines of public education-so you can imagine my delight in reading this today. Once again creativity strangled in the pursuit of banality and mediocrity!
Posted by: Gill Jepson
Thu 31 May 2012
What is wrong with our society that all we can think of doing to 'improve' things is to come up with a never ending list of regulatory paperwork qualifications designed to homogenise everything and everyone? The whole point of artists in schools is to offer children something that the tick-box-obsessed education system has stamped out of existence to the cost of this generation of children. Sorry, bit of a rant there, but I was a classroom teacher for fifteen years and gave up that career because of this sort of block-headed thinking and interference in everything that hard-working and talented teachers on the front-line were trying to achieve. And as NAWE points out, this stuff is irrelevant because the role of the visiting artist should never be to take responsibility for the health, welfare and development of the children as such. There will always be professionals on hand whose job it is to do that. The job of the visiting artist is to inspire. And just how is all this going to be funded? By struggling artists (not known for their excessive wealth as a rule) or by a Government that's already frantically cutting back? And who is going to profit anyway? Anybody who has been around in education (or any government-related industry) for any length of time knows that what is being put out there as an 'optional' qualification now will very soon be compulsory, and artists will have to either cough-up or get out. This proposal will put the best people off and close yet more opportunities for creativity to be part of our children's educational experience. What insidious nonsense the whole thing is.
Posted by: Kath Morgan
Wed 30 May 2012
As a writer and storyteller who has visited schools since the first 'Writers in Schools' scheme in the 70's I asm horrified by this document. My various literacy difficulties which I have managed to overcome most days leap to the fore when ever I see blocks of words like this. It automatically sends out a signal that unless you perceive the world in the same way as those that sit behind desks and are comfortable in that world don't even bother to knock on the door. The arts were one area which avoided this (less so now) Given that a high percentage of people in the arts have perceptual problems who relate amazingly well with areas of the classroom some teachers have difficulty with this whole process is discriminatory and worse BAD FOR THE ARTS
Posted by: John Row
Wed 30 May 2012
I agree with the concerns already expressed. Of the 8 units outlined only two directly relate to being an artist. Take those away (3 and 4)and you are left with what looks like a social work qualification. Some people are good at working with young people and inspiring them to creativity and others aren't - and no qualification is going to change that. Are schools going to choose an "arts practitioner" (terrible term) who has this qualification over one who has years of experience and recommendations? What we bring is outside the box and should remain there.
Posted by: Alan Durant
Wed 30 May 2012
I have looked at the document with absolute horror – yet more blocks in the way of artists/writers etc who have been inspiring and working sucessfully to implement creativity literacy and motivation into classrooms for decades....What would they do with exp[erienced practitioners? Who would profit from the introduction of this qualification? Certainly not the schools, children or teachers (in which I include writers and artists working in schools.)
Posted by: Helen East
Wed 30 May 2012
The whole idea is beyond ridiculous. More red tape, more cost, more hassle. Visiting schools is a vital source of income for many children's writers, and this proposal will simply throw a barrier up between them and the education system. Schools will just see it as yet one more compliance issue to which they must adhere, and from that point on they'll be less likely to want to book a visiting writer. Writers will have to waste time, effort and money becoming 'qualified' to do something they do already!
Posted by: Simon Cheshire
Wed 30 May 2012
I don't like the look of this at all. I have filled in the questionnaire but generally by questioning the entire structure of the consultation. This could be a bureaucratic nightmare. After visiting 150 schools a year in the UK and abroad for ten years and teaching for twenty years before that I am very reluctant to undergo 'licensing' especially if, as you say, previous experience is ignored. I am one of a large number of writers with similar experience. This is what I wrote in the final box: "The central issue that binds together everything I have said is this: there is a huge reservoir of experience among the writers and artists who currently visit schools. They are CRB checked and often have a huge body of creative work behind them and an extensive history of educational projects. There can be no licensing without a recognition of and respect for what they already have to offer to children and young people. Somebody with years, indeed decades of experience should not be regarded as somebody who comes with a blank CV. If this consultation fails to take on board the concerns of existing practitioners it could be a source of friction rather than an agency of improvement."
Posted by: Alan Gibbons
Wed 30 May 2012
I would like to add that artists are very often multi talented and write and do a number of hand crafts as well as spell properly and use words correctly. I was a reminiscence therapist in four old people's homes until I was 65, then I was deemed too old to be employed by the Norfolk County Council and had to leave that position. I was not sure how I could be too old to talk to old people - I feel I am certainly too old to talk to young people - but I can show them how to think about how to go about a drawing and discover how enjoyable drawing and writing can be. It's not rocket science, everything that is manufactured begins with someone doing a drawing first. Everyone can draw better.
Posted by: Mike Bignold
Wed 30 May 2012
I agree with all the things you've said. I can't see that this qualification would really benefit anyone other than the people hired to teach the qualification. The whole point of having practitioners in school is that they are precisely that. If you're no good you don't get invited back and you don't get recommendations. There is training and development available, there are groups where we can be 'fed'. One of the things we offer to schools is our individuality - a quirkiness of approach that enlivens standard practice and sheds a sideways light on it. I can't see that a qualification will do anything other than iron out the wrinkles that make us interesting and valuable.
Posted by: Jan Dean
Wed 30 May 2012
Thank you for alerting me to this proposal. I've now read the consultation document, and NAWE's initial response. I also opened the Survey, but found its approach (asking for comment on fine detail)completely irrelevant to my concerns and reactions. I am an ex-teacher with 16 years varied teaching experience, and ten years of arts and heritage marketing experience, now working very hard to develop a practice as a Writer in Education, which I love. I would be appalled at being obliged, at my own expense no doubt, to have to undertake this kind of training, including as it does some pretty irrelevant background about child development and health and safety,which is not key to the work of a writer in education, and about which I already have, in any case, considerable awareness and experience. I'm somewhat confused about who exactly is driving this, and also astonished that consultation has not apparently included bodies such as NAWE.
Posted by: Jean Atkin
Wed 30 May 2012
As an ex children's editor & published writer of women's fiction, with four children of my own, I find the whole notion of a certificate for "creative practitioners" utterly depressing. At the moment I teach creative writing to a bunch of kids in my daughter's school. I do it to give something back to the school and also because I despair at the lack of creativity in the curriculum. The thought of having to take a certificate to do what I do fills me with horror and would probably make me stop doing it. Which is a pity as I find the work I do inspirational, and the children seem to enjoy it.
Posted by: Julia Williams
Topic: Proposed Qualification for Writers in Schools
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