Draper's Academy workshop

After weeks of rain, the sun finally came out this week on the second day of our two day workshop with teachers from the Draper's Academy. They will be welcoming their first sixth form students in September and in collaboration with their Head of Sixth, Julie Armstrong, we drew up a plan to help support its development, starting with this workshop and running throughout next year.  We spent much of our  two days together in conversation, unpacking understandings and experiences of writing in the teachers' own classrooms, in their subject areas, within the culture of the school and in 'the system' - of assessment for the students and inspection for the teachers. Some of the group were very experienced, others just starting out; they all shared an energetic, interested and reflexive approach and in each other's company grasped that they had agency to make changes, take some risks and support each other in revivifying aspects of the way writing is experienced within the constraints and pressures of teaching for results at GCSE or for A-level. Teresa and I  looked at each other at one point and remarked simultaneously  that everyone was talking about 'thinking' and hardly mentioning 'writing'  .... and indeed the tenor was more about students generating questions than the teacher providing  guidance or content, and more about the value of quick short writing tasks punctuating lessons, than about how to score full marks in examined short answer questions. Some of these things began to creep back in, admittedly,  when the teachers shifted to spend time focussing on practicalities they would need to have in place for the new school year, but for me the real satisfaction of the two days was the chance to think together outside the boxes that 'writing' often falls into - 'sentence starters', essay guides, assessment criteria, student weaknesses.  One of the teachers wrote in his reflections: "I was unsure after the first day's content because I didn't (at the time) consider the areas we discussed to be urgent....however by lunchtime of the second day a light switched on in my head and I realised that in fact the things we discussed were perhaps the most important things of all."