Writers in Education: get started
Your first resource is NAWE (National Association of Writers in Education) who work with writers in schools across the country.
As a professional membership organization, NAWE assists contemporary writers of all genres both in developing their own practice and sharing their art, craft and imagination with new writers of all ages and backgrounds in a wide range of educational and community settings.
Writers are brought into schools to:
- inspire the children and the staff – often exploring genres which are unusual in class
- challenge received wisdom about “how” to teach creative writing in a class setting
- work with artists in other fields to combine art forms
- encourage reading as well as writing
What the school will expect of a writer:
- some preparatory conversations with the teacher(s) involved – you should expect this and insist on it if it’s not offered
- have a body of work you can draw on to illustrate your own practice – children and teachers will be interested in your work and will want you to share it with them
- enthusiasm and good humour – schools often have very legitimate reasons why your session will be different to what was planned or expected. Roll with it as much as you can!
- be realistic about what you can achieve in the time you have. Don’t rush. Let the children develop their ideas.
- be organised: lead the session/s you agreed at the planning meeting
- be punctual: get into school in plenty of time to discuss the forthcoming session
- be flexibile: if the teacher has to leave the room for an important meeting, will you deliver the session with alternative support? It’s important to stress here that you should have a qualified member of staff in the room with you at all times.
- leave the school with a bank of ideas and approaches they can use, muse on and adapt for future teaching.
You don’t need to have particular qualifications to work as a Writer in Education, but if you’re interested in teaching as a career, you may like to look into post–graduate teaching qualifications.
You can find post-graduate Creative Writing courses at universities across the country, and NAWE have details of ongoing training for writers in education.
There are no minimum rates for working in schools (competition law prevents this). However, a minimum daily rate of £250, or £150 for half a day, plus expenses, is generally considered to be appropriate. Some of the best known and most experienced writers can, of course, charge much more and will often expect £500 or more a day. If your work comes through one of the national funded schemes, you may find that there is a fixed rate. The type and length of the work, the setting, which part of the UK you are in and so on, will also affect what you earn. Writers are usually (but not always) engaged by schools on a self–employed basis and so will be responsible for their own tax and national insurance.
It is advisable to get a contract that clearly states what your obligations are when carrying out the work and what the obligations of the school or agency are to you. It should cover:
• A description of the work to be covered with dates.
• A breakdown of your fee, including when the school/agency expects to receive an invoice.
• A named contact in the school or agency booking you.
• Evaluation mechanisms: will you be required to file a written report? Or provide verbal feedback at the end of each session?
• Cancellation procedures: for example, a contract might stipulate that if the school has to cancel a session, the writer will be entitled to 75% of their fee. Similarly, it should set out what happens if you have to cancel.
• The contract should include the school’s Child Protection Policy and policy on public liability Insurance which most schools now require artists to have. This is currently provided by NAWE for all its professional members (see below).
• You will also need to show your DBS certificate.
Public liability insurance is essential if you are self–employed and working with others. It covers you should anyone have an accident whilst working with you or there is damage to property. Although many schools will have their own public liability insurance, it is worth making sure you have your own, in order to be sure that you are covered. In fact, many schools now insist that you have public liability insurance. In response to this situation, NAWE now offers free public liability insurance cover to its professional members who work as writers in public or educational settings.