In 2017, we engaged NSF Consulting to run independent evaluations of the impact of two of our programs on participating young people.
The first program, generously funded by the Crown Resorts Foundation and the Packer Family Foundation, was our In-School Creative Writing Residency Program, where we ran term-length programs on different types of writing at eight primary schools across Western Sydney (2 schools per term)
The program will run for three years, and at the end of the first year the evaluation found that:
Kids love the program! On average they rated it 9.5 out of 10. The top 3 words used to describe the workshops were 'awesome' (83%), 'creative' (77%) and 'fun' (77%).
- There was a big impact on young people's confidence and enjoyment of writing. The percentage of students who said were ’very confident’ about their writing increased from 42% before the program to 67% after the program; those who ‘really enjoy’ writing increased from 61% to 81%.
- Outcomes were particularly strong for Indigenous students. After our workshops, 93% of Indigenous students said they "really enjoyed" writing, up from 56% before the program.
- Teachers said they had noticed improvements in academic performance as a result of the program. One teacher said that the one-on-one time the students received in the workshops improved their overall academic achievement in class, as it built up their confidence to perform. Another teacher reported ‘massive’ improvements in academic results from her participating students. She felt this was attributable to the value of the students' development of story characters, which engaged them in a way that built their confidence to try new things and to attempt challenging tasks in other subjects
- One of the greatest strengths of the workshops was to engage those who are not naturally predisposed to such a collaborative and creative environment––such as students who don’t consider themselves to be creative, don’t enjoy challenges or working in teams––and bring about a positive shift in their enjoyment of writing.
The second program that was evaluated was a year-long residency program at Canterbury Boys High School. Every Monday for a year, our storyteller-in-chief ran between two and four writing programs for boys in years 7 to 12. All programs were developed and run in close consultation with the principal and teachers at the school.
The evaluation found that:
- The students overwhelmingly enjoyed the workshops, rating them on 7.9 out of 10, with 21% rating them 10 out of 10.
- There were very significant improvements in confidence and enjoyment of writing. The percentage of students who said they were ’very confident’ about their writing increased from 4% before the program to to 38% after it; the percentage of students who said they ‘really enjoy’ writing increased from 11% to 36%.
- The top 3 words used to describe the workshops were ‘helpful’ (62%), ‘creative’ (58%) and ‘imaginative’ (58%).
- The Year 9 students in our Shakespeare Slam program seemed to get the most out of the workshops. They were the most likely class to say the workshop was ‘imaginative’ (67%), ‘fun' (67%), ‘awesome' (58%) and ‘inspiring’ (58%). They also rated the workshops slightly higher (8.3) and saw the largest upward shifts in writing confidence and enjoyment (8% to 58% and 17% to 67%, respectively).
- There were significant improvements in the student's writing: common features included writing that was organised and fluent, writing with a varied vocabulary, compelling and engaging writing, writing going beyond the formulaic, experimentation with language conventions, and the use of a clear, personal style and voice.