Records of Writing Research Projects

Scope and Content

Comprises administrative papers and research material for the following projects -

1. Multiple Marking of English Compositions

2. The Development of Writing Abilities, 11-18

3. Writing Across the Curriculum, 11-16

4. English in the Middle Years of Schooling

Administrative / Biographical History

In the early 1960s James Britton, Nancy Martin and Harold Rosen of the Institute of Education collaborated on a project called 'Multiple Marking of English Compositions', funded by the Ministry of Education, to examine the marking of GCE English 'O' Level compositions. The results convinced them that writing tasks often regarded as equivalent actually made different demands on the writer and presented different aspects of his ability as a writer and this lead them to conduct further research into the development of children's writing abilities during their secondary education.

A proposal was put to the Nuffield Foundation in 1964 but, by mutual agreement, was transferred to the Department of Education and Science where it was held over for the formation of the Schools Council and approved as part of its initial English Programme in 1966.

As a result two further projects were carried out at the Institute of Education between 1966 and 1976; 'The Development of Writing Abilities, 11-18' (1966-1971) led by Professor James (Jimmy) Britton, Head of the English Department and 'Writing Across the Curriculum, 11-16' (1971-1976) directed by Nancy Martin.

The first project was a developmental study of the processes by which the written language of children becomes differentiated during the years 11-18 and involved the collection and systematic analysis of samples of writing from secondary school pupils. The project team comprised Harold Rosen, who drew up the proposal along with James Britton and Nancy Martin, Dennis Griffiths a colleague in the English Department at the Institute, Researcher Officers Bernard Newsome (1966-1970), Alex McLeod (1967-1971) and Tony Burgess (1970-1972), secretary Cynthia Barnes(1966-1971) and many others including John Dixon of Bretton Hall College of Education, Professor Mellon Chorny of Calgary University, Professor Wayne Booth of Chicago University, Dr Ruth McConnell of the University of British Columbia and Professor Wallace Douglas of Northwestern University all of whom contributed during sabbatical stays in London. There was also a team of teacher assessors attached to the project.

The second follow-on project investigated the practical and educational implications of that research in collaboration with teachers and the key people on this project were director Nancy Martin, Project Officers Peter Medway (1971-1973), Harold Smith (1971-1974), Pat D'Arcy (1973-1976), Bryan Newton (1974-1976) and Robert Parker (1974-1975), and Admin Assistant Frances Mawer (1972-1975). Also overseas academics Garth Boomer from South Australia, Bill Renehan from the Australian Council of Educational Research, Rod Morisset from NCTE and Bob Parker from Rutgers University, New Jersey.


The records were transferred into archive boxes from filing cabinets in the drama studio store at which point no original order was found. An order was imposed during cataloguing separating the records relating to each project as far as possible given the crossover between them.

Access Information

Restricted access

Access is restricted under the Data Protection Act 1998. Please contact the archives for further information

Acquisition Information

Transferred to the archives in April 2011.

Conditions Governing Use

To be ascertained.

Custodial History

The records of the project were administered by Professor James (Jimmy) Britton, Head of the English Department at the Institute. After his death all his papers were transferred to the Institute although it is not known whether these papers were part of this archive or whether they had remained at the Institute. Some initial sorting was carried out at this point. At a later date the filing cabinets were transferred to the drama studio store room. In 2011 the material was assessed and found to contain the archive of Nancy Martin (ref NM), the archive of Jimmy Britton (Ref JB) and the records of the two projects into English in the Curriculum. All three collections were transferred to the archives at this point.

Related Material

Papers of Professor Nancy Martin - Ref NM

Papers of Professor James Britton - Ref JB