Children’s futures ‘at risk’ as number enjoying writing plummets, charity warns

Children’s futures are being “put at risk” as the number enjoying writing in their spare time has plummeted to an “unprecedented low”, a charity has warned.

The National Literacy Trust (NLT) said the number of children and young people who said they enjoy writing in their free time has fallen to the lowest point since the charity started the survey 14 years ago.

Fewer than three in 10 (28.7%) of those aged between eight and 18 said they enjoyed writing in their free time in 2024, compared to 46.8% in 2010.

Only one in nine (11.1%) said they write daily in their free time, compared to 19.3% last year, the survey found.

The daily writing levels for children and young people have dropped to an “all-time low”, according to the report.

Overall, 76,131 children and young people aged five to 18 from 405 schools across the UK were surveyed by the NLT between January and March 2024.

It comes after 71% of children in England met the expected standard in writing in the Key Stage 2 Sats in 2023, compared to 78% in 2019.

The report said the findings suggest “we must prepare to live with the long-term consequences of this evolving crisis”.

The charity is calling for urgent action to be taken to address the “alarmingly low levels” of writing enjoyment among young people as it says writing for pleasure promotes mental wellbeing and self-expression.

Two in three (66.7%) children between the ages of five and eight enjoy writing in their free time, but this decreases as they get older, according to the survey.

Just over one in five (21.8%) children aged 14 to 16 said they enjoyed writing in their spare time.

The report also found that children’s enjoyment of writing at school, rather than in their free time, has increased over the past year.

More than half (53.6%) of children and young people aged between eight and 18 said they enjoy writing at school, compared to 43.9% last year.

Jonathan Douglas, chief executive of the NLT, said: “With children and young people’s enjoyment of writing at an all-time low, and high numbers leaving primary and secondary school without the writing skills they need to thrive, children’s futures are being put at risk.

“It is now time to provide children and young people with more meaningful opportunities, both in and out of school, to reconnect with the creative elements of writing which transform it into an enjoyable activity that allows for self-expression and that works as a tool to process struggles, make sense of the world and participate actively in civic life.

Author Malorie Blackman said: “The findings are a definite cause for concern.

The writing of stories, poems, journals and diaries allows for reflection, expression, innovation and imagination, all of which are stepping stones to improving creativity as well as mental wellbeing.”

Sarah Hannafin, head of policy at school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “The current curriculum and assessment system is part of the problem when it comes to children’s enjoyment of writing.”

She added: “The grammar curriculum for primary aged children is unfit for purpose and must be subject to a comprehensive review.”