Ros Wilson has expressed concerns about my post and I want to address them here. She was unable to post her comments on my blog post personally.
Firstly, let me say that I am appreciative of Ros Wilson's offer of a Big Writing training session and of her interest in my thoughts. I was surprised too to be contacted by her via a twitter mention. I'll reproduce our brief conversation here so I can explain what I find positive about it, and where my worries still lie:
@bird42 Tried to reply on your blog Bird, but think I failed. Found your tirade on Big W interesting but superficial and ill informed. Ros
.@rosBIGWRITING I'm sorry you couldn't reply, I'll check the settings. I agree it wasn't in depth, but which bits did you find ill informed?@bird42 VCOP is a piecemeal way of teaching writing. It sticky tapes quick fixes over limited teaching... Stated as a fact, so wrong.
@bird42 ... as are so many other statements. Would like to 'talk' more effectively than this / invite you on a day. Ros@andrelleducation.com
.@rosBIGWRITING thank you, I appreciate the generosity of yr offer. I have had Big Writing training, however & worked in BigW schools.
.@rosBIGWRITING if you have time, it would be good if you could comment on the blog itself re: anything you see that is factually incorrect
@bird42 suggesting that you can only write when the moon is in the seventh house and Venus is aligned with Mars is not going to help. Sorry?
@bird42 "Keep writing real, give it a purpose, give it an audience." You obviously know nothing about what I, personally, say Bird.
@bird42 You quote a Forum comment that must be 2 years old at least - we have had no students for 2 years. If you had been trained by...
@bird42 ... an Andrell consultant or myself you would know we guarantee our work and if it did not work for you you could come back to us...
.@rosBIGWRITING Meanwhile, I will post an addendum expressing your concerns & restating that my view of BW is personal opinion.
@bird42 ...we work on with you free until you get it 'right'. We abhor stulted 'purple prose', which you may see in the very early...
@bird42 ...'emergent' phases of BW, but you find the same in early use of features of text type and many other forms of early learning.
@bird42 Please don't worry about doing that, I am sure readers would realise that. I would rather 'talk' in a better forum...
@bird42 ...where I can explain your misunderstandings properly. Take care, Ros
This reassures me that Andrell are committed to providing value for money, which is always one of my worries about buying into private companies in the public sector.
I wonder also whether the issues I identify with Big Writing are not due to the theory but to problems in the dissemination of the original ideas. Obviously, Andrell cannot be responsible for the practice of each individual teacher using Big Writing. However, I am still concerned that this is partly due to the absence of a solid base of research underlying Big Writing. Maybe more thorough research would identify potential problems in delivery without having to rely on working with individual teachers until they get it "right".
I'm glad that Ros Wilson seeks to explain misunderstandings, but in my case I feel they are more differences of opinion.
In Education currently, there is a lot of debate around personalised learning. We accept that children have different needs and ways of learning and that we should consider giving them increased responsibility for that learning in order to support their development and help them become more active participants in school. I think the same is obviously true for adults, even teachers. We learn in different ways too, and we teach in different ways. If I was to personalise my own learning journey as a teacher, I would not take on board Big Writing because it does not work for me. I don't think any extra training would change that. I like to work in a different way. As long as I teach the objectives in the Primary Strategy, in a way that is enjoyable and meets the needs of my class, then I'm ok with that. And so is Ofsted. Big Writing is not compulsory and doesn't come from the Department of Education.
Regarding the oddities in children's writing that Ros Wilson identifies as "emergent Big Writing", I still feel that they are qualitatively different from children's naturally emergent writing. We all know how excited children get about new words, new writing tools; like that period in Year 2 when their work is liberally sprinkled with exclamation marks. None of that exuberance feels as clunky and bolted on as Big Writing errors. The hundreds of SATs papers I have marked demonstrated a difference between VCOP and non VCOP schools. To generalise, the difference is in the flow of the work, the development of an individual writer's voice and in lively and entertaining content; all of which come as part of less prescriptive writing methods.
These are of course my opinions. I'm glad to not be alone in them, and have enjoyed some supportive chats with many on twitter who agree. I know lots of people disagree. Hurrah for diversity amongst teachers, let's celebrate that, and independent opinion and giving our children the varied and passionate teaching they deserve.
(And Ros Wilson clearly isn't a fan of Hair...)