years ago, I had the privilege to introduce the author Philip Pullman to an
Oxfordshire Headteachers’ conference. I recall that he was scathing about the
lack of focus on creative writing in schools.
Despite his warnings the priority has continued to be an increasing emphasis on grammatical sentence construction to, in my opinion, the detriment of creativity. I am not arguing for a return to an era, such as my childhood, when grammar was not taught in any depth. On the contrary, I think a working knowledge of grammar is important. What I caution against is giving younger children inappropriate teaching of grammar that is not applicable for their age or stage of development.
I am passionate about helping children to enjoy using their imaginations because of the pleasure this can give and also the access it gives them into higher order thinking skills, such as increased awareness of the environment and context in which they live.
I have just finished reading Philip Pullman’s latest book, The Book of Dust (see photo); a superb model for anyone interested in imaginative writing. We are transported to a parallel world to people who still face similar issues to those we have in our current reality: a corrupt powerful force that keeps the truth away from people; fear driven bureaucracy controlling systems -even universities and intellectual freedom. Above all the book is full of hope that light can triumph over darkness.
The battle for each one of us is I believe an internal one. We can be working on behalf of darkness, often outside of our awareness. Professor Richard Pring, my supervisor at Oxford, once told me that by reading literature we learn about morality and how to be moral.
Thank you Philip Pullman for making such a powerful contribution through your writing. Let’s all read and celebrate literature and especially the gift of creativity and imagination, which has the power to help us to make wise choices.