The wonderful Michael Rosen writes eloquently at his blog about the limitations imposed upon children (and teachers) by the national curriculum and SATs regime.
If I want to make myself distressed … all I need to do is focus on the kind of writing that English Year 6 children are asked to write, re-write and re-write again and again and again in the run-up to the SATs test. As a body of writing, it represents the removal of all danger, excitement, desire, problem, dilemma, problem-solving or subversion. It is in effect a censorship of the brain.
But even this over-simplifies. I always say to anyone (not only children) that the great thing about writing poems or stories or life-writing or even accounts of what you’ve done (so-called ‘recounts’) is that the potential in that moment of writing is discovery. However, if you do too much pre-structuring, pre-note-making, pre-planning, you miss one of the great achievements of the invention of writing which is to enable the writer to do the discovering as you write, in the process of writing. It’s as if the pen (or keyboard) is a probe or a spade (see Seamus Heaney’s poem on this) or a fork turning the texts and experiences over as you produce the words on the page (or as M.A.K. Halliday would put it, ‘as you produce the wording’).
Last year, Michael Rosen commented about Rosemary Sutcliff (at the Guardian newspaper , in response to an editorial):
Interesting that Rosemary Sutcliff was writing about the end of an empire at the end of…er…an empire. And does the search for the lost legion echo/refract Conrad’s Heart of Darkness?
Some of us drank in The Eagle of the Ninth two ways: once as a BBC Children’s Hour serial and second time as the book. I can remember hurrying to get home to hear it – moody, dangerous, mysterious – a quest for something real but long gone, a possible solution to an unsolved story…and somehow it had something to do with events that happened a long time ago just where you walked when we were on holiday: on moors, or on wet fields where we were camping. The book made a connection for me between a past and that particular present.