Growing a school of extraordinary writers: progression in writing

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Patrice Jones

With Ofsted's new inspection framework coming out recently, schools have had  to think carefully about subject progression. As the series creators of Power English: Writing, we welcome this move. Progression is essential if children are to become the best writers they can be, and when our teaching of writing is cohesive, considered and coordinated, we can see dramatic changes in the quality of children’s writing in only a matter of weeks.

Ofsted emphasises how ‘instructional leadership’ is a key driver in effective schools and Power English: Writing offers school leaders a research-based pedagogy which can help start the process towards school improvement. It not only delivers the writing requirements of the National Curriculum but believes all children can aim for greater-depth. It embeds equality of opportunity for every pupil. With Power English: Writing, every child is seen as a writer. 

Power English: Writing is a rigorous and research-based approach  to teaching writing. Outstanding writing development involves clarity, world-class instruction, responsive teaching, and the opportunity for children to engage in repeated practice through daily writing which is pleasurable, purposeful and meaningful. Power English: Writing weaves all of these together so that schools can benefit from:

● the interconnected and interleaving nature of the class writing projects;

● the hundreds of writing-study and functional grammar mini-lessons which become more sophisticated as children progress through the school years;

● the detailed and practical writing development scales which move children’s writing development forward. 

● the handpicked high-quality mentor texts and author videos taken from well-known published writers and from children’s literature;

● the revision and editing checklists which become more advanced over time so as to guide children towards applying more intricate and complex compositional techniques to their emerging drafts and for their finished manuscripts to be as transcriptionally accurate as possible;

● a ‘Writing For Pleasure’ pedagogy.

Furthermore, to grow a school of extraordinary writers, writing development needs to be a whole-school collaborative effort which is supported by a deep understanding that interconnection is a powerful principle of the very best teaching practice. Every one of the Power English: Writing class writing projects has been carefully considered, with each one placed where we feel it will be best taught. This includes projects across narrative, poetry, persuasive writing and non-fiction. In keeping with the principles of distributed, retrieval and repeated practice, what is learned in one project  also supports and develops new learning in all other future projects. Children become aware of how what they are learning in one writing lesson, and in one writing project, will come in use not only later in the year but in future years too. 

Here’s just one example of the kind of progression journey children go on. In Year 3, children learn valuable lessons in how to ‘paint with words’ during their Animals and Pets and The Natural World poetry projects. This has a direct influence on both their Fairy Tale and Fable stories written that year too.

This learning stays with children into Year 4 where they will create setting-driven and character-driven short stories. During the year, children will also participate in a sensory poetry project, which will serve to further enhance their story writing.

Moving into Year 5, all their hard work so far will come together when they write their more developed Short Stories. Yet again, these stories will come alive as children apply what they’ve learnt in their Poetry That Hides In Things, Graphic Novels and Inspired By ... writing projects.

Finally, by Year 6, children are well prepared to write multi-faceted and highly-developed Flash Fiction. However, it’s more nuanced than that. Not only do the Year 6 poetry projects contribute to children’s narrative writing, they also support their non-fiction writing too. All the things children learn within the narrative and poetry projects also have a direct impact on the quality of their Memoir writing throughout Key Stage 2.

In summary, when schools are clear about the trajectory of writing development, they give their apprentice writers the best chance to soar. In such schools, there are high expectations for all. The sky’s the limit and glass ceilings get shattered. 


About the authors

Phil Ferguson and Ross Young are national and writing representatives for the UKLA (United Kingdom Literacy Association) and authors of Power English: Writing and founders of The Writing For Pleasure Centre.

They are both committed writer-teachers: teachers who write and writers who teach.