Background to the National Writing Project
Buckinghamshire Teachers As Writers Project Meeting 2010
The project was started in 2009 by Jenifer Smith, University of East Anglia, and by Simon Wrigley, English adviser for Buckinghamshire, 2004-2013, and chair of NATE, 2004-6. The UK project grows from the direct experience of running writing groups at NATE conferences, 1990-present, and borrows heavily from the long experience of the US national writing project (nwp.org.us), 1974-present. NWP UK aims to deepen understanding about what writing is, what it can do for us, and how the process can be more meaningfully managed in schools.
The evidence from the US is that, since 1974, by creative collaboration, professionals can become their own experts in the teaching of writing. Gradually, over 35 years, what started in California, has spread into every US state.
It was this model which Professor Richard Andrews cited when, in 2008, he presented 'The case for a national writing project in the UK' to the DCSF (now the department for education). When the DCSF declined to sponsor the project, NATE took up the challenge to find out whether it might be possible, without funding, to start a 'grass-roots' writing project in the UK. In this, NATE was supported by UEA and Buckinghamshire. Teachers' writing groups were established which offered regular face-to-face meetings and free online meeting space to support each other, to practise and share their own writing, their observations of pupils' writing - and their thoughts about the teaching of writing.
The dream was - and still is - to develop a network of writing groups for teachers - run by teachers - across the UK.
The principles are more or less identical to the US project. Early findings from the 3 initial groups - Buckinghamshire, UEA and London - were published in the 2010 autumn edition of NATE's magazine, EDM (see article). The number of groups and teachers involved continues to grow, and research is ongoing.
There is now a book of the project, published by Routledge in November 2015.
updated by Simon Wrigley 17.1.2017