The Writing over Time (WoT) is a project about writing, children and Liverpool.

It explores whether (and how) writing produced by schoolchildren in the Merseyside area may have changed across time (before and after the Digital Turn and the implementation of the National Curriculum).

Our interest is both linguistic and educational: we are not only passionate about language (and language change) but also about translating research into tangible outcomes for the benefit of the wider educational community.

As such, WoT works in partnership with the Liverpool’s Local Educational Authority and Year of Writing in order to use the project’s findings to support the development of teachers’ subject and curriculum knowledge in writing, leading to improved writing outcomes for children.

Our research work takes a comparative, corpus-based approach. We are the guardians of the APU archive, the largest historical archive of children’s reading, speech and writing (for further information and related academic projects on the APU archive, see The Art of Writing English). We aim to digitise selected parts of the APU archive (samples of Merseyside children’s writing from 1979 and 1980) and collect and digitise similar data from local partner schools in two consecutive years (2020-2022, Year 6 and Year 11 pupils). This will give us a sizeable amount of electronic writing data (or ‘corpus’) to run comparisons across schoolchildren’s cohorts (1980s pupils vs 2020s pupils).

We intend to focus on similarities and differences in children’s use of vocabulary, grammar and style—which are central to current models of writing development.

Our current and (planned) outreach activities include exhibitions, writing competitions, language resources and much more (see Events).