Research shows only 49.3% of young people enjoy writing

New research by the National Literacy Trust shows that children and young people enjoy writing significantly less than reading. The report, Children’s and Young People’s Writing in 2014, sets out the findings of the National Literacy Trust’s fifth annual survey of more than 32,000 eight to and 18-year-olds. It found that while children’s enjoyment of writing has started to increase slowly over the past three years, they still enjoy writing less than reading (49.3% compared with 54.4%).

Meanwhile the percentage of children and young people who write daily outside class has remained relatively stable over the past five years, with more than a quarter (27.2%) saying that they write something outside class daily. This is in stark contrast to the dramatic increase in children reading daily outside class, which rose from 32.2% in 2013 to 41.4% in 2014.

Children do not see a connection between strong writing skills and job prospects

The research also found that a large percentage of children and young people do not connect good writing with employability. Only half of pupils (54.2%) agreed that being good at writing would lead them to get a better job and one in eight (12.1%) denied there is a connection.

The value that businesses place on recruiting employees with good literacy skills is being highlighted today (5 October) at a National Literacy Trust, KPMG and Reform event at the Conservative Party Conference. The panel, including Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan, will focus on the benefits of literacy to school pupils’ engagement, future employment prospects and employability skills. Following the introduction of the new National Curriculum and increasingly high expectations for school pupils, the discussion will focus on how to increase engagement and enjoyment of reading and writing.

Writing enjoyment and frequency reduce as pupils get older

The research also picks up a worrying trend that children do not enjoy writing as much as they get older and do so less frequently.

· 57.4% of pupils in Key Stage 2 said they enjoy writing; this decreases to 47.1% at KS3 and falls to just 38.8% by KS4

· 28.3% of KS2 pupils write something daily which is not for school. This dips to 27.3% at KS3 and falls to 23.9% by KS4

This is concerning given the clear link between a child’s enjoyment of writing and their attainment: pupils who enjoy writing very much are six times more likely to write above the level expected for their age than those pupils who do not enjoy writing at all (46.3% versus 7.3%).

A stark gender gap

Although the gender gap for both writing enjoyment and frequency narrowed slightly between from 2013 and 2014, a huge gap remains:

· Just 40.4% of boys enjoy writing compared to 57.4% of girls

· Only 21.9% boys write daily outside class versus 32.2% of girls

The research shows that significantly more girls write across a much larger range of formats outside class than boys. Girls are nearly three times more likely than boys to write a diary (30.7% versus 11.1%) and far more likely to write fiction (29.1% versus 20%), poems (17.2% versus 10.1%) and letters (30.2% versus 23.0%).

Interestingly, writing in these formats was associated with higher writing attainment: of children writing a diary, 25.0% wrote above the expected level for their age, as did 27.0% of those who wrote fiction, 32.0% of those who wrote poems and 23.9% of those who wrote letters.