Community engagement

Working with Secondary Schools - Seed Guide

Working with Secondary Schools - Seed Guide

“This first in our  series of ‘Seed Guides’ provides ideas and inspiration for ways to work with those teaching and studying English in the secondary sector.”

Introduction

Radio 4's Book club broadcasts from Coldingley

Radio 4’s Book club broadcasts from Coldingley

The object of this area is to recognise and celebrate a fact which – while in many ways obvious – is often overlooked within university departments. That is that HE English (in its various guises, including Creative Writing) shares its subject matter with communities of speakers and readers whose own self-aware engagements with language or with narrative are unlikely to recognise themselves in academic form. At the same time, ours is a group of subjects which since their inception have existed on a margin between and in an active relationship with communities of self-aware readers and speakers.
There is, then, considerable scope for collaboration. These pages highlight the potential for exciting synergies by drawing attention to a selection of activities and projects which enter into various levels of exchange with communities located in some sense ‘outside’ the immediate HE circle of scholars and students.

As well as a look at the historical context of English’s engagement with the wider community, you will find here a list of community activities English and Creative Writing departments are currently involved with, a Subject Centre seed guide on working with schools, and links to external resources. You may also be interested in our webpages on English across the sectors, on employability, on diversity and inclusion, and in our mini-site for prospective students, Why Study English?.

Benefits

There are many reasons why English and Creative Writing subject groups might wish to become more formally involved with the discussion of language and literature ‘outside the walls’. Not least of these is the fact that these ‘extra-mural’ domains are after all those from which our prospective students will be drawn. But also, given the increasingly permeable membrane around the ‘student experience’, they represent communities in which our students continue to participate even while they are studying at university. The increasing need to demonstrate ‘impact’ might itself have positive consequences for dialogues beyond the academic community. Community-based projects are also an excellent way for students to gain work-experience linked to their interests and field of study. Initiatives such as those showcased in this area will help students expand their intellectual and social horizons and develop group-working skills, and may stimulate thinking about possible career choices.

Sharing Ideas

In pursuing the adventure of English ‘outside the walls’, English and Creative Writing subject groups frequently and in many ways have to invent their own wheels. While such ‘one off’ experiments in public engagement have the advantage of sensitivity to local environments (and, potentially, originality), the opportunity costs of setting up such projects may be seen as forbidding even by those who would in principle like to engage in such work. The seam of Subject Centre activity summarised in this web area is offered as a way of sharing ideas and connections, in full consciousness that until relatively recently the structures were already in place: many universities had their own continuing education programmes in which English and Creative Writing could and did generally play a major role.