VIEWS From the pen of... Joshua Cartwright

From the pen of… is a series looking at the authors of books on topics in education. This month we hear from JOSHUA CARTWRIGHT, author of The Granny JJ Adventures and the forthcoming book “The girl who took forever”, on why he chose to write a children’s book using phonetic spelling, rather than ‘proper English’.

I was brought up at a time when ‘posh’ accents speaking the Queen’s English were the main voices heard on television and radio. Now, there are a diversity of dialects and accents on television and radio but that change has not been reflected in children’s books.

After spending time in Guyana where the majority of the population speak Creole, I came to love the variations and idioms from another usage of the English language.

I took my son Peter, 15, to Guyana, and having lived in England all his life he was struck by how different the

people were. So, when I came to write The Granny JJ Adventures which is set in Guyana, it occurred to me that it would be more authentic and useful to write their English as it sounds. The Granny JJ Adventures are a set of ‘nearly fictional’ stories about an old lady who acts as ‘Guyana’s Daily Detective’. She catches crooks, disciplines naughty children and dispenses pithy wisdom. They were created when I started making up stories for our daughter, Seraphina, six, and my wife Glenda insisted I write them down.

In the UK, we have wonderful books about children from other cultures: Anna Hibiscus, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters and Amazing Grace, to name just a few. But they are mostly in plain British or American English, with the written word still promoting the idea that one type of English is a ubiquitous ideal.

Reading the Granny JJ book phonetically helps broaden children’s experience of the auditory world because they can hear her accent as they read. I co-manage a London library and last year, for Black History Month, I prepared a chart of Creole words and phrases. Readers were intrigued because the phrasing is similar to our English but just different enough to be fascinating – and to make you puzzle over what it means!

For example, the Guyanese use ‘he’ and ‘she’ instead of ‘him’ and ‘her’ so “Me nah know wha e ah say tu she” means “I don’t know what he said to her.”

My wife Glenda and I originally envisioned the book as a family artefact, and cultural aid for our daughter Seraphina, who only sees her real Granny JJ (Juliet) in Guyana every few years. Further into the project we decided to try and get it into the Guyanese school system in an attempt to promote and preserve traditional cultural values. At the time of writing it is being looked at by the Guyanese High Commissioner in London and the Guyanese education ministry. We will also be offering it to local authorities as a resource for Black History Month.

I do believe that we need to teach a baseline standard of English. However, we live in an international community and perhaps we need to help children be fascinated by difference rather than rejecting it. If we train their ears to be flexible it can only help their future success. After all, we enjoy different foods from around the world – why not words, customs and lives?

The Granny JJ Adventures are available now through Askews and Gardners.

September 2017

British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) Have you signed the Resource

Our Schools statement? This month, regular Education Today contributor and Director at BESA PATRICK HAYES issues a call for all stakeholders to join the growing Resource Our Schools campaign.

While UK schools were expecting to reduce their resources expenditure in 2017, the reality will be worse than during any time in the past five years, we at the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA) have found in our most recent procurement research.

BESA undertakes quarterly research with the National Education Research Panel with a representative sample of head teachers from across the UK. Our most recent research report found that the forecast for resources spending across primary and secondary schools in 2017 was a -5.5% reduction in expenditure year on year. This is a further decline on 2016, where expenditure was down -4.7%. Worryingly, our report found that schools are reigning in their expenditure more than they had anticipated earlier in the year. Where primary school head teachers expected a decrease of -4.2% when last surveyed in April 2017, they registered a decline of -6.3% this time around.

Primary schools are most likely to be spending less. Our report, which surveyed 387 schools, found that 55% of the primary school head teachers anticipate lower spending in ICT resources in 2017, 41% in non-ICT and 44% in furniture.

The situation is only slightly better in secondary schools: 48% say they will spend less on ICT, 41% on non-ICT resources and 42% on furniture.

The overall forecast for resources expenditure across UK schools is a decline of -5.5% compared to the previous year. Expenditure on school resources is now lower than any time since the Great Recession. While there is, rightly, mounting pressure on the government to increase the education budget, it is paramount that resources are not overlooked.

Schools are now starting to lack even essential resources. While there are doubtless efficiencies to be made, the impact of cutting back on resources upon a child’s education should not be underestimated. There is a powerful evidence base to show that resources matter - from the size of the furniture, to the quality of the science equipment. We are hearing accounts from across the school sector of corners being cut. These range from YouTube clips being shown in place of science practicals, to parents being asked to pay for textbooks. Teachers are even having to pay out-of-pocket to ensure that their pupils get the resources they need. One secondary school teacher told us recently that: “If I need specialist resources, I have to buy them myself. Money is tight - I find myself getting wound up over children using too much glue, or sharpening pencils too much! Decisions are being made based on finance, not educational value.” This is why we at BESA have launched our Resource Our Schools campaign, working with subject associations and representative bodies, such as the NAHT, Naace and the Association for Science Education. The campaign is dedicated to ensuring that every school has access to the resources they need to deliver the education that our children deserve. Hundreds of people, ranging from teachers to parents and suppliers, have already signed the Resource Our Schools statement, which we will be presenting to the Department for Education as evidence of the widespread concern about this matter.

Every signature counts. If you haven’t signed it yet, please consider doing so at

For information from BESA contact: Patrick Hayes 020 7537 4997  7

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