Write Times 2

The SQA recently published Write Times 2 to celebrate the writing of pupils in National Qualifications.  Leanne Welsh went along to the launch event to represent SATE. 



Opportunities are often taken to celebrate the success of pupils involved in physical activities such as sporting achievements and practical accomplishments; however there are not always opportunities to celebrate the written accomplishments of young people in Scotland – until now.

Write Times 2 is a collection of fantastic creative writing produced by SQA candidates over the past academic year.  The book includes: fiction, non-fiction, poetry and drama. The pupils in this collection of writing have used their talent to share compelling personal experiences, as well as thought-provoking pieces on fairy-tales with a twist.  The work in this collection is inspirational and a free copy will be sent to every school in Scotland!

The SQA Write Times 2 launch was a fantastic night filled with fascinating readings and performances from pupils across Scotland.   We were introduced to the event by John Loughton who is the chief executive officer of leadership training company Dare2Lead and a motivational speaker. John stressed the importance of putting young people’s voice at the heart of what we do as they are, after all, the future. Their views need to be taken into consideration and prioritised as they will be the ones who will inspire positive change for future generations to come.

The Deputy First Minister, John Swinney, followed on from John’s speech and he also emphasised young people’s shrewd awareness of current world affairs. Some of the pupils in this collection have chosen to write about these concerns and the affect they have on them personally. This is one reason why this collection is so inspiring.  The collection clarifies what our young people are capable of. They are often more aware of what is going on than we are because, as we get older, we are often too wrapped up in our own world to see the bigger picture.  The pupils show maturity when dealing with the major issues of today and there is no doubt that this collection reflects the talent and ambition of the young people in Scotland.

All Illustrations by Adrian B McMurchie

In addition to these fantastic speeches, we were also lucky enough to hear some of the pupils read their work at the launch event. Hannah, from the High School of Dundee, started the readings with her creative story: ‘Gone Mad’.   This piece is a fairy-tale with a twist and tells the story of what really happened after Cinderella met her Fairy Godmother and animal friends. Hannah’s use of language in this piece is superb.  An example of language is shown through her description of a hut as ‘showing the scars and wounds left by the forest and its harsh climate’.  She also adds humour to her story and, again, shows young people’s awareness of the issues around them with the lines: ‘Well ladies.  Never invest all your happiness in happy ever after – develop your own independence’. ‘Gone Mad’ is an enjoyable and, at times, dark piece and I’m sure it will inspire many pupils in Scotland to have the confidence to adapt another fairy-tale or story.

All Illustrations by Adrian B McMurchie

Another amazing piece of writing came in the form of a poem by Mahee from Kelvinside Academy. Mahee’s poem, titled ‘My Grandfather’, describes his experience of being a first generation Scot and the difficulties that can derive from the confluence of two cultures. One of the many lines that stood out to me was: ‘he holds my soft hands in his calloused paws’. Mahee’s use of language clearly shows the contrast between his roots and the life he lives now. Many pupils have shied away from poetry in the past, however I hope that Mahee’s piece will inspire many to take on the challenge and create their own poems in order to express their own thoughts and ideas.


All Illustrations by Adrian B McMurchie

The final reading of the night came from Michelle, from Eastwood High School, and this was a performance to remember.  Michelle created a non-fiction piece titled: ‘Nyumbani Means Home’. The audience were lucky enough to witness this piece as a theatrical adaption. Tram Direct Theatre supported Michelle, and her co-star Asante, with the performance and it was spectacular.  Michelle took on the role of herself in Scotland, and Asante performed as Michelle from Kenya. In this piece Michelle explores her experience of both Scottish and Kenyan culture and the potential for conflicting feelings to arise. We were treated to Kenyan culture and ceilidh dancing as Michelle tried to decide where she really belonged. However, by the end of the performance, Michelle stressed the importance of being an individual with the powerful line: ‘I’m Michelle Mwende Nyawira Musyoka, daughter of all counties and citizen to none.’  The performance was truly inspirational and Michelle’s piece can be read in the non-fiction section of Write Times 2.

The launch event filled me with ideas to share with my own classes and I’m sure pupils, from across Scotland, will read these pieces and be inspired to create something that is just as powerful and thought-provoking. I was enthused, but not surprised, by the confidence and talent showcased at this event. I’m sure that all the young people in this collection will go on to inspire the next generation of pupils to be ambitious and original.

National Writing Project Launch, 11th October

The National Writing Project UK launch on the 11th of October saw the inaugural meeting of the first NWP group in Scotland.  Emily Gillies, NQT English at Springburn Academy, reports on the event. Inquiries about NWP Glasgow can be directed to Lisa Hamilton at gw17hamiltonlisa@glow.ea.glasgow.sch.uk . Lisa has written about NWP on here own blog, here .

On Wednesday, October 11th I had the pleasure of attending a National Writing Project UK event at Springburn Academy. The event was a launch for not only the first National Writing Project group in Glasgow but indeed the first in Scotland, and was an exciting opportunity to learn a little bit more about what the National Writing Project does, as well as learning about some practical approaches to teaching creative writing in the classroom. The event was well-attended by a mix of both primary and secondary teachers, and offered opportunities to share good practice and to discuss and reflect upon what we had learned.

Simon Wrigley, one of the co-founders of the National Writing Project UK, opened the workshop by explaining the philosophy behind the project and stressing the importance of creative writing, for both pupils and teachers. We were then asked to think about our own experiences and memories of writing, and encouraged to share these with the other members at our group, which opened up interesting conversations about the emotions associated with writing. We reflected on how these experiences – positive or negative – have influenced our adult relationships with writing, thus highlighting the importance of allowing children to have opportunities to write creatively in an encouraging, positive environment.

We then engaged in a free writing activity, in which we wrote about one of our memories or experiences for five minutes, without stopping to plan, review or edit our writing. These five minutes flew by and afterwards, we were once again encouraged to discuss and reflect upon the activity, with many in my own group describing the experience as “freeing” and “cathartic”. I very much enjoyed this writing technique as it forced me to write without worrying too much about whether it was “good enough”, which I believe is one reason I myself am hesitant to even begin writing in the first place. Many of us found that, once we had started writing, the ideas flowed very easily and the most difficult thing about it was writing quickly enough to get everything down on the page within the allotted time! We were not forced to share our work but simply to read back on it and reflect on the experience of writing itself.

Almost the instant we started reflecting on the free writing activity, I could see how it would be a useful activity to use in class. I have a National 5 class who are very reluctant to begin writing their Personal Writing pieces for their Folio, for numerous reasons, including not knowing where to start when it comes to writing about a personal experience. However, I feel like an activity such as this, where pupils and teachers are all engaged in the writing process together, where there is no pressure on creating the “perfect” piece of work, and where pupils are not forced to share their writing unless they absolutely feel comfortable doing so, is the ideal jumping off point. I will certainly be using this with my National 5 class and have plans to use it as a starter activity in BGE classes as well.



Get Write In! competition

NATE and SATE sponsored the Get Write In! creative writing competition for looked after children.  SATE National coordinator Raymond Soltysek chaired the judges, which included Scottish Makar Jackie Kay.  A record of a wonderful evening can be found at HERE .

Peter Thomas, chair of NATE, reflects on the event:


It was a pleasure to represent the National Association for the Teaching of English at an inspiring event in Edinburgh’s beautiful Our Dynamic Earth centre on 15th August. The event was the Awards evening, where the winners of the Get Write IN! competition were announced. This creative writing competition was organized by CELCIS (Centre for Excellence for Looked-after Children in Scotland) based at the University of Strathclyde with the help of Raymond Soltysek, Chair of SATE (Scottish Association for the Teaching of English).

All contributors in the junior and senior sections were children in home or foster care, and the Dynamic Earth Hall was filled with them and their very proud carers. Volunteers in superhero dress provided stimulating games and challenges at tables around the hall, and there was a fine buffet and musical accompaniment to make the occasion special.

Jackie Kay, Scotland’s national poet was the star of the presentation, and well suited for the role. She spoke movingly and wittily about her young experience in care, and her struggle to become a writer. There could be no better role model for the youngsters in the room – especially as she read a poem called Care Leaver written for the event. Raymond Soltysek provided an eloquent reinforcement of Jackie’s description of writing as a form of self-defining and discovery, and the message from these two was a ringing endorsement of creative writing for all children, as well as those present on the evening. It was good, also, to have the event supported by the Mark McDonald, Scotland’s Minister for Childcare and Early Years. I had to reflect, regretfully, that England cannot boast such a splendid competition, or such government support.

The winner of the junior section was Joseph Ness and the winner of the senior section was William Cathie, both of whom wrote movingly about the impact of significant events in their lives. Both winners’ work was read out by Jackie Kay, and all the finalists had their work published in a booklet – a sign of success and approval that was well received by entrants and their carers.

The whole evening was a highpoint in a city in the middle of its annual Festival – a testament to the quality of care in Scotland, to the power of creative writing as an extension and development of self, and to the commitment of CELCIS and the University of Strathclyde to the motivation and celebration of young people’s achievement.