When is a narrative, not a narrative?

My nephew Patrick is nine. He is in year 3. He is my first nephew. Needless to say, I love him to bits. Today I heard some news about his school work that made me furious.

This lovely, conscientious boy recently wrote a story for homework. It was rejected by his teacher. Why? It was rejected because it was considered not to have met the requirement for narrative. The NSW Education K to 6 syllabus definition of narrative that is.

Here is an extract from the section on ‘text’

Texts can be classified into the broad categories of literary and factual texts.

Both categories include media texts, which can be either literary or factual in orientation.

They also include all forms of electronic text.

The categories of texts indicated above can be further subdivided into different text types.


Literary texts – Narrative, Literary recount, Observation, Literary description, Personal response, Review

Factual texts – Factual description, Information report, Procedure, Procedural recount, Factual recount, Explanation, Exposition, Discussion

So it seems, according to the syllabus, narrative cannot be true. Patrick’s story is not a narrative, because it happened to him. If he had only changed the ‘I’ to ‘a boy’, the ‘we’ to ‘them’ then it would be a narrative tale.

This poor little boy, crushed by the blow to his other perfect homework record, now won’t do any homework. He is frustrated. He thought his story was good and interesting. After all, it features sharks! What my sister, my mum and everyone else I speak to, cannot understand, is why narrative is defined so narrowly, why this feedback was delivered so bluntly? Mum had to investigate the Board of Studies website, to ally my sister’s fear that she herself did not know what narrative meant!  I fear for Patrick and his lovely siblings. I am worried about what this negative feedback, this red penning of his story will do to his urge to write and to read.

I need your help. Patrick needs feedback, from real readers, especially writers. If you have a moment, read his story and write a comment. Particularly, if you are a writer, leave a comment about what books you’ve written.

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