I recently did a school visit to a delightful secondary school in Bristol, where the children were engaged, interested and well-behaved. They listened to my talk, asked questions, became enthusiastic as we began to talk about books by other contemporary authors and produced some great writing in a creative writing exercise afterwards.
It was all very enjoyable and the time flew by. Several children were interested enough to buy my books, which was also nice. :-)
I was very perturbed, however, to hear from the member of staff who arranged the event that she’s been asked to prove that these visits are of quantifiable benefit to the children in the school, or the funding for them won’t be continued.
Now, I can quite see that scientists may be able to prove that a certain drug can be used to treat an illness (after expensive trials, of course). But I’m not aware that any one educational method has ever been proven to be better than any other. So how do you prove the value of author visits? (I’m not aware that the school were offering money for a research project on the subject…)
The success of education in general, and perhaps English more than any other subject, is dependent on so many factors. Most subjects go beyond the classroom and are affected by home environment, parental expectation, and socio-economic factors. With all these influences, it makes it very difficult to accurately assess the impact of any individual classroom method over another.
I know that author events have had a huge impact on my own children’s reading. Thank you and bless you Francesca Simon for getting my youngest son interested in books! And gratitude also to Anthony Horowitz and Michelle Paver for extending his reading beyond Horrid Henry. I saw the effect of those events on his reading and his English over a two year period. But would I be able to prove that’s what made the difference? I wouldn’t know where to start.