Arts Council and Poetry Ireland celebrate 40 Years of the Writers in Schools Programme

17th November 2017

It is 40 years this week since the Writers in Schools Programme was launched in the Convent of Mercy School, Limerick by the Arts Council. The Writers in Schools Programme is one of the longest running arts-in-education programmes in Ireland. Since its inception in 1977 almost 1 million young people have enjoyed a visit by an artist to their classroom. There have been over 8,000 visits by hundreds of artists to over 4,000 schools nationwide. The Writers in Schools programme brings writers and storytellers to primary, secondary and special schools in every county in Ireland, north and south with the aim of inspiring young people to read and to write creatively.

Speaking at the Arts Council celebration to mark the 40th anniversary of the Programme in St. Clare’s Primary School in Harold’s Cross, Dublin, Siobhán Parkinson, Writer, Former Laureate na nÓg (2010–2012) and an artist who has participated in the programme said;

“The Writers in Schools scheme provides children with an invaluable live experience of literature in their own classrooms. Every child in every school in the country should have such an experience at least once a year throughout their school years.  Being involved in this programme can be an unforgettable experience for both the student and the artist. My own experience of the programme as a visiting artist has been hugely positive and I hope the programme continues to go from strength to strength.”

Each year the Writers in Schools Programme offers a broad range of artists for schools to choose from, both in English and Irish: poets, novelists, children’s writers, dramatists, storytellers and screenwriters.

All artists joining the scheme must meet artistic criteria and undergo thorough training and participate in a mentoring programme, guaranteeing a unique high-quality experience for every school.

Speaking on behalf of the Arts Council, Director Orlaith McBride said;

“The Arts Council is enormously proud of the success of the Writers in Schools programme over the past 40 years. From its humble beginnings in the Convent of Mercy in Limerick in 1977 to the all island, all county programme it has become today, it has had a powerful four decades of achievement. We know from research that there is a strong correlation between participation in arts and cultural activities and a child’s wellbeing. Increased exposure to the arts makes for better attitudes towards learning, while at the same time schools which actively promote the arts are nurturing broader interest in the arts among students which helps to boost higher levels of academic attainment.

Not only does this Writers in Schools Programme bring students and artists together to learn and be inspired but it also gives students an insight into what a future career in the arts might look like. Past members of the Writers in Schools scheme have included Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland and Paul Durcan.  Amongst the writers currently on the scheme are Marita Conlon McKenna, Sarah Webb, Ireland Professor of Poetry Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Billy Roche and Oisin McGann, to name just some.”

Phyllis Moran, Deputy Principal at St Clare’s said;

“We have been involved in the Writers in Schools programme in our school for many years.  Our students have benefited greatly from a writer coming into their classroom. We have seen an improvement in literacy and writing skills across the board and we believe that is in no small measure thanks to the inspirational effect of the writers who have worked with our students. It gives the students a really great experience of working closely with a writer and maybe someday some of the students will follow an artistic path themselves.”

Maureen Kennelly, Director Poetry Ireland said;

"The impact of the Writers in Schools scheme has been remarkable, reaching approximately 1 million children in all four provinces over 40 years. The experience of working closely with a writer is both enjoyable and memorable, and the creative energy triggered by such encounters can lead to an appreciation of the emotional and intellectual power of language, often lasting a lifetime."

The Writers in Schools Programme is funded by The Arts Council and administered by Poetry Ireland.