What do we think of Creative Writing as an A Level choice?

(46 Posts)
YDdraigGoch Thu 15-Nov-12 17:15:25

It's a new subject offered at my DD's school, and after a Sixth Form taster day today, she's come home really excited about doing it for A Level.
DH is concerned that this might be seen as a soft option.
Her other choices are likely to be Eng Lit, History and Philosphy and Ethics.
I think Creative Writing would complement Eng Lit.
DD is thinking about a History degree.

Are there any English teachers or Uni folk out there who could give me an honest opinion?

RedGreenRouge Thu 15-Nov-12 17:37:12

It would definitely be sene as a softer option but having one of those isn't really a disadvantage. Eng. Lit and History are both very strong courses. I can't comment on the status of Philosophy and Ethics. One soft course will not disadvantage your daughter. Two might take the edge off her application - but with four essay subjects she won't be seen as significantly less challenged.

YDdraigGoch Thu 15-Nov-12 17:57:23

Thanks Red. That's kind of what I thought, but good to have second opinion to show DH.

webwiz Thu 15-Nov-12 20:46:05

I think I would be more concerned that its a brand new A level that has never been taught before. It only launches in sept 2013 and "academic" creative writing can be surprisingly difficult.

YDdraigGoch Thu 15-Nov-12 21:25:00

I hadn't realised it was completely new. I thought it was just new to he school. Thanks for that info.
There's a Sixth Form open eve on Monday, so will be sure to ask for reassurance about that.

Roseformeplease Thu 15-Nov-12 21:27:10

Not sure. I would be very concerned about the, likely, very subjective nature if the marking.

I'm with your DH, sounds like a total cop-out offered for less academic pupils. Might be OK as a 4th A-level. Would also probably take up loads of time for coursework.

Pluto Thu 15-Nov-12 21:38:53

I would not contemplate Creative Writing as an A Level - I am a Head of English - creative writing will not be Russell Group Facilitating subject and any student who relishes creative writing will find other outlets to do it. Most Eng Lit and Eng Lang A Levels provide opportunities to write creatively in the coursewor. Your daughter should be doing at least two facilitating subjects at A Level to keep her options for uni open, so Eng Lit and History are a good starting point.

BeckAndCall Fri 16-Nov-12 09:43:24

I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss it, tbh.

My DD, now doing eng lit at a RG uni, did an OU module in creative writing and it was quite demanding and academically rigorous.

And there are RG unis who offer creative writing either as a whole subject or as a combined 'English and creative writing' course. And they are very difficult to get onto (my DD got rejected from one herself therefore it must be difficult (biased mum talk!)). Nottingham and Birmingham both offer it to my certain knowledge. And other non RG but good unis too - UEA and Hull for instance.

My point being that it doesnt have to be non academic - clearly it is as a subject. But whether the new A level will also be rigorous is a different question, really and I have no idea about that.

Shagmundfreud Fri 16-Nov-12 11:21:50


Just in case anyone wants to look at the specs before dismissing it as pointless and a 'soft option'.


OP - your dd should do the A-levels that excite her.

BeckAndCall Fri 16-Nov-12 13:15:30

Missed out a word in the last sentence of my post!

Meant to say 'clearly it is a proper subject' - ie one of value and recognised by unis.....

socharlotte Fri 16-Nov-12 14:59:48

Whay is she doing 5?

PropositionJoe Fri 16-Nov-12 15:07:43

It is the soft version of English lit, I think. I didn't realise you could do both - are you sure you can?

Shagmundfreud Fri 16-Nov-12 16:37:57

"It is the soft version of English lit, I think. I didn't realise you could do both - are you sure you can?"

If the emphasis is on writing rather than reading then I can't see how it's a 'soft' version of English lit? And surely there's still a hefty amount of analysis involved?

Thing is, even if it is a really really hard A-level, that almost makes it worse. Because she wouldn't be able to sail through and get an A*, yet most people will think it's an easy option.

GrendelsMum Fri 16-Nov-12 17:21:56

I imagine it would be hugely enjoyable if you're a good writer (and enjoy it), the teacher is an experienced teacher of creative writing, and the other members of the class are talented / hard-working writers.

I can imagine it would be very frustrating and stressful if this wasn't the case.

Himalaya Fri 16-Nov-12 17:24:52

If she is excited by it she should do it. It sounds like a good mix and a complement to her other A levels which are more traditional.

Education can't just be about collecting points.

YDdraigGoch Fri 16-Nov-12 18:02:37

Mmmm - lots of food for thought.
English dept is generally excellent and school also an ofsted outstanding school. Results generally high across the board.
DD loves to write, and is excited at the syllabus for this course. Will note down your points, in order to give Eng teacher a grilling at open eve next week. May also contact some unis to see how the land lies.
I think her other 3 subjects (philosophy and ethics is one subject), are strong subjects, so maybe she deserves a lighter "fun" one, as long as it doesn't ruin her Uni options.

Sparrows12 Fri 16-Nov-12 18:52:06

I have heard that there is scope for some creative writing within eng lit itself - writing fiction in the style of the author - for one of the assignments. Maybe this would meet her desire to be creative.

ThreeTomatoes Sat 17-Nov-12 21:11:48

I don't get this view of certain subjects as 'soft options' personally. Everybody has strengths & weaknesses. I know ppl who can't write a bloody email properly let alone try to write a whole piece of creative writing - let alone an A Level!

I would have loved to have done this A Level when I was doing them. If what dd enjoys atm doesn't change much, i hope it's still around when she comes to do A Levels.

FGS let her do it!!!

ThreeTomatoes Sat 17-Nov-12 21:20:29

PS sorry for getting a bit passionate there, when I was 16 starting A Levels i had no enthusiasm or ambition in me. I will be soooo pleased if dd is actually enthusiastic or excited about a subject. It's horrible not knowing what you want to do and just having to get on and do something - much worse I've have thought if you're not allowed to do something you're excited about and have to do something else instead. I started out doing 3 A Levels, dropped one fairly soon cos i was bored stiff with it, failed a 2nd that i didn't give a sh*t about and hardly turned up for, passed the 3rd well but only because i had a natural aptitude for it (Music) and it was the social 'hub' for me so i actually turned up and mostly enjoyed it...

Dozer Sat 17-Nov-12 21:47:15

I would've loved this at that age! But it may be heavy on the essay writing.

Dozer Sat 17-Nov-12 21:47:51

I mean the combination of A levels.

Not heard of ethics and philosophy.

socharlotte Sat 17-Nov-12 22:21:21

I think she is setting herself up for a heck of a workload! How is she at maths/science/music - something that shows a different skillsets?

wordfactory Sun 18-Nov-12 08:17:18

I am a writer and I would not encourage a student to take this at A level.

Anyone interested in creative writing should be reading and analysing at that age IMVHO. English Lit much better.

ThreeTomatoes Sun 18-Nov-12 10:35:35

Whyever not wordfactory? (I totally agree that reading lots of different stuff is vital, though). Budding writers are continually writing anyway, I could have done with some guidance when i was growing up.
FWIW English Lit. was the A Level I dropped early on because I was so bored. If it had been Creative Writing I might have been much more interested. Looks like there's a certain amount of reading and analysing in that Creative Writing A Level anyway (would be weird if there wasn't).

racingheart Tue 20-Nov-12 20:04:28

How many A levels is she doing? My concern would be that all the subjects you list are very time consuming. If she does five humanities subjects she will have a huge amount of reading and lots of essays each week. In her place I'd opt for a language instead.

But well taught, creative writing could be a real asset. There's a huge skill shortage of good writers out there. Long winded, incoherent documents with lousy grammar abound.

peasabovesticks Tue 20-Nov-12 20:06:24

I am also a professional writer who wouldn't recommend Creative Writing A level.

Bride1 Tue 20-Nov-12 20:19:33

I am also a professional writer (fiction) who would not recommend this as an A level, though it is obviously great for sixth-formers to be writing creatively.

To be honest, I'm not even that convinced about Philosophy and Ethics, which my son will be taking next year, so I'm not just being snobby. The Philosophy professor I was chatting (he is at London university) to didn't think much of it. It's going to be a 'third' A level for my son, so I'm not going to discourage him and in case it's always got to be their choice, not ours, hasn't it! But if your daughter does want to go to a 'good' university, she needs to be careful.

History is always a good choice, and English Literature.

motherinferior Tue 20-Nov-12 20:22:28

Wot wordfactory said. (Apart from the bit about being a writer. I am a writer, but mainly the journalist sort. And fwiw I wouldn't recommend an A level in Meeja Studies either.)

Bride1 Tue 20-Nov-12 20:22:31

Caveat to last post: this professor is a rather crusty, old-fashioned sort, so please don't throw bread rolls at me re. my reservations about Philosophy & Ethics. My son's school is very academically selective and I'm sure they wouldn't let anyone study it if it wasn't respected ,and besides you asked about CW, not P&E.


squeezedatbothends Tue 20-Nov-12 21:47:15

Let her do it. The other three are very academic and accepted by Russell group universities. My son did all three and is now at Oxford. Her fourth should be a fun choice - unis only count three in any case. English lit does not foster creativity in any way - the so called creative sections only encourage pastiche. A levels are all challenging, she may as well have one she loves.

ThreeTomatoes Wed 21-Nov-12 06:34:12

Can the professional writers here please explain why not the Creative Writing A Level???

Bride1 Wed 21-Nov-12 08:02:47

I have been reading the AQA spec., which claims that thiw A level will allow students to progress as writers through A level to degree and then into 'professional practice'. But that is not how writers, of fiction in particular, operate. If you submit a ms. to an editor or agent, or even publish it yourself, having this A level will make no difference to your prospects. They do not look at your A levels when giving you a book deal. Two of my nephews and nieces and my own son want to be writers and I tell them to get the best possible A levels and degree so that they can support themselves while they wait for publication. You need to have money saved. My novels pay out royalties twice a year. In between I need to earn from other sources. Not all authors do well enough to support themselves by books alone.

cory Wed 21-Nov-12 08:17:37

As long as you have three strong A-levels and a reasonable chance of doing well in those I don't think the fourth one matters terribly; universities will only really be looking at her first three for academic gravitas iyswim.

But agree with others that there are probably A-levels out there that would do more for a future career as a writer. English language might be more useful. Or a MFL. She should be looking at things that develop her understanding of the world.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 21-Nov-12 08:22:35

Depends where she's aiming, but I'd be wary of that and philosophy and ethics.

Agree with Word and MOtherinferior that a creative writer should be reading first.

Merrylegs Wed 21-Nov-12 08:26:42

I can see why she would be excited by it - and perhaps as a fourth A level it would be a good choice.

But I would worry about how it was taught. I think to be a really effective course it needs to be taught by a writer. By that I mean someone who is being published.

Creative writing at Uni is massively hard to get into and starts from a place of your writing.

I wonder how they would assess it at A level?

As an aside, is Philosophy and Ethics different to just Philosophy? Because Philosophy by itself it a v well respected A level and not a soft option at all.

Namechangeforapropertythread Wed 21-Nov-12 08:32:44

I took philosophy and ethics at my grammar school and it was an excellent foundation for my philosophy and theology degree at Oxford. I now teach the subject and have sent several to oxford myself so I hadn't come across this!

Namechangeforapropertythread Wed 21-Nov-12 08:37:37

Grr lack of capitals etc. Can't work predictive text on this phone!

As a teacher I'd be wary of it simply as it is new -so teachers won't be experienced in teaching or levelling work. Similarly new examiners and the fact universitys won't have heard of it yet.

I'd personally be tempted by the ou module as an extra if its not too time consuming (I've not looked at it) or just lots of encouragement to write herself or find a writers group etc. She can do 4 as levels then and add as an extra curricular.

MainlyMaynie Wed 21-Nov-12 08:38:35

I think it might be a bit of a mistake. It may turn out to be very difficult to get top grades. I also agree with wordfactory that for now reading and analysing through English Lit is likely to help her writing far more.

This isn't because I think creative writing is a 'soft option', it's a core part of many English Lit courses and it's often difficult to get top grades. I'm just not sure A-Level is the right thing.

BeckAndCall Wed 21-Nov-12 09:11:13

Re the OU module I mentioned earlier, I don't know if it runs all year round, so to speak, but when my DD did it, it was supposed to be between her ASs and the summer of that year. In fact some of the deadlines were the same week as some of her AS papers. But the tutor was flexible and she fitted it in.

It would have been ideal if there had been a summer course available (which there may be - she had to do it to fit with the shcool's approach). The scheme was called YASS I recall but I've no idea what that stands for....

pinkdelight Wed 21-Nov-12 11:57:03

"Can the professional writers here please explain why not the Creative Writing A Level???"

I'm another professional (creative!) writer and would also not recommend it. A writer will write creatively with or without an A-level. If your daughter is a writer, she'll bring that to whatever A-levels she does and there'll be no stopping her writing creatively in her own time. But honestly, what would an A-level in it add to her in terms of qualifications? Nothing at all, in my opinion. I'm even fairly dubious about creative writing first degrees, as again, they don't really qualify you for anything in the way that say a journalism or even a very vocational screenwriting degree might (and even then, I'd save screenwriting for a second degree, or just write some scripts - you don't need a degree to do it). But while absolutely you should enjoy the subjects you do for A-level, there is no point doing them, especially in these days of high costs and competitiveness, if they're ultimately worthless in terms of getting you a job or on a decent degree.

Maybe I'd just about support a creative writing A-level for a mature student who just wanted a more formal course rather than the writersy group classes around. But for a kid going to college, it really isn't going to add anything to what she could do for herself by reading a few books on the subject and writing LOTS.

pinkdelight Wed 21-Nov-12 12:02:48

PS: In my experience, creative writing studies are an industry on their own, quite distinct from actually making a living from creative writing. It's a way for colleges to fill classes and for out-of-work writers to make money. It's a cash cow, because everyone thinks they can do it and they can be easily exploited. Another thing that undermines their worth is the low standard. I've witnessed some terrible crap that's been rubber-stamped by creative writing degrees, as it's all subjective blah blah, but essentially these are people who are buying their degree. Sorry to sound so cynical, but honestly, all you need to do is keep her stimulated and all she needs to do is keep being creative. And do some proper A-levels.

ThreeTomatoes Wed 21-Nov-12 13:23:39

Thanks for the explanations, they do make sense.
I just know that if it was me, who was very unmotivated at age 16, it would have really helped focus me and actually force me to do some writing and I might even have taken it further. In a similar vein, doing Music A Level forced me to actually work properly on my piano-playing, something that wouldn't have happened otherwise, even though I played the piano lots 'for fun'. It's been no good whatsoever in my future mind you, as I did not pursue either a music degree (or any degree) or musical career (I went into care work, am now in Customer Services and studying Geosciences with the OU!)

Always depends on the person though - doing music sorted my DP for life.

wordfactory Wed 21-Nov-12 13:51:46

I would concur that the creative writing industry is a cash cow. The teachers are often just filling in to make up their lack of earnings throuh writing. There are some notable exceptions at post grad level (I teach on one myself) but much dross. A level wd be even worse imvho. Also I wd question how much any 16 year old could achieve in CW. To make any headway you have to have read hugely in all genres. You have to have thought about literature very deeply and then considered how to apply it to your own work.

ThreeTomatoes Wed 21-Nov-12 19:15:58

Wondering what you decided, OP?

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