Writing skills and employability – do young people see the link?

Sometimes it's difficult for students to make the link between what they are learning in the classroom and the skills they'll use once they leave school - even, it turns out, with core skills.

New research from the National Literacy Trust UK shows that a large percentage of children and young people don't see a connection between good writing skills and employability.

The charity's fifth annual literacy survey involved more than 32 000 eight- to 18-year-olds and explored student attitudes to writing, enjoyment of writing, and their writing habits outside school.

Only 54.2 per cent agreed with the statement 'If I am good at writing, I will get a better job when I grow up' (down from 58.9 per cent the previous year), while 12.1 per cent denied there is any connection at all between writing skills and employability.

When researchers looked at responses from different age groups, they found students were less likely to 'buy into the power of writing' as they got older. On the link between being good at writing and better job prospects, just 46.5 per cent of Key Stage 4 students (aged 14 to 16) agreed with the statement, compared with 53 per cent of Key Stage 3 students (11 to 14) and 60.3 per cent of Key Stage 2 students (eight to 11).

The full survey results are published in the report Children's and Young People's Writing in 2014. Key findings indicate children and young people's enjoyment of writing has continued to increase over the last three years. The 2014 data show 49.3 per cent enjoy writing 'very much' or 'quite a lot' (up from 44.1 per cent in 2012), however they still enjoy it less than reading.

There's also a gender gap. Just 40.4 per cent of boys enjoy writing, compared to 57.4 per cent of girls, and only 21.9 per cent of boys write daily outside class, compared to 32.3 per cent of girls.

So, what are the most common formats of writing outside school?

Not surprisingly, technology features heavily. Text messages topped the list, followed by social networking messages and instant messages. Notes, letters and lyrics were the most frequently written non-technology formats.

The report notes that, overall, while daily writing levels outside class have remained stable 'this is in stark contrast to daily reading levels, which have increased dramatically over the past couple of years'. In 2014, 27.2 per cent of youngsters surveyed said they write something every day outside of class that isn't for school - the figure for reading is 41.4 per cent (up from 28.4 per cent in 2012).

Commenting on the implications of the 2014 research, National Literacy Trust UK Director, Jonathan Douglas, says it highlights the fact that more needs to be done to promote writing among children and young people, particularly boys.

To download a copy of Children's and Young People's Writing in 2014, click on the link.

In your classroom, do students understand the relevance of good writing skills once they leave school?

Do you use classroom activities that reflect real-life situations outside school?