18 Feb 2019 / Schools
In January 2018, a group of Year 5 and 6 pupils, aged 9-11, from two linked primary schools in the London borough Newham visited The Hurst: The John Osborne Arvon Centre in Shropshire for a week-long creative writing residential.
Newham is one of the most deprived boroughs in London, with the city’s second-highest child poverty rate. For over 85% of pupils at both primary schools English is not their first language, which is four time higher than the national average of 21%.
Having been reading Blackberry Blue and Other Fairy Tales by Jamila Gavin in class, the children were delighted that she was able to co-tutor alongside poet Roger Robinson. In workshops, pupils wrote character profiles on members of their families, and poems describing what they would take if they had to leave home with just one suitcase.
They went on nature walks around the 26-acre site, which is set within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. For some pupils this was their first experience of the countryside. After cooking for each other they enjoyed evening readings from the tutors and comedy songs from ukulele-playing midweek guest writer, John Hegley.
Back at school, the pupils presented their writing to their peers, families and other invited guests, including Arvon staff. Their poems and illustrations were on display and pupils read their work and performed a dramatised section of Blackberry Blue.
Feedback from the pupils after the week showed 100% reporting improvement in their writing skills and enjoyment of learning. All pupils reported that they felt more confident writing on their own and left feeling motivated to continue improving as a writer. Teaching staff will now ensure that the benefits of the Arvon week continue, supporting pupils to use their new found skills and enthusiasm for writing.
“I feel that this experience has boosted my writing way higher with new tips and techniques and expended vocabulary.” –Pupil, aged 10
“My shyness turned to shininess” –Pupil, aged 11
“I found the children hugely interested, intelligent, and willing to respond to the challenges they were presented with.” –Jamila Gavin
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