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Hats off to young stamp designers

The Royal Mail is to issue two special stamps next term - strictly limited edition and not for general release - to a couple of Scottish school children. With the stamps, designed by the youngsters themselves, will come cash prizes of pound;500 for them and pound;500 for their schools.

Morag Barton, aged 10, of Campie Primary, Musselburgh, and Dhana McPhilips, 13, of Trinity Academy, Edinburgh, are the primary and secondary winners of the Royal Mail's design a stamp competition, sponsored by TES Scotland. All 400 children aged five to 15 who entered will receive a presentation pack of the Royal Mail special issue stamps released this week, which feature hats.

The competition had the same theme. Feathers, spangles, stars, glitter and lace were applied with panache, though which way round some hats might be worn was less clear. Pencils, felt-tipped pens and pastels featured, but none quite as dramatically as the paintbrushes in the creation of Terri Brotherston, 13, of Trinity Academy, Edinburgh. His skeleton donned an artist's palette and plume of paintbrushes at a tilt.

Topicality was often the name of the game, with Royal Ascot a hot favourite and one hat sporting a tennis match on top.

Strong design, originality and clarity of message are the characteristics that Barry Robinson, the Royal Mail's director of design, looks for in a stamp. These were evident in the best entries.

Dhana McPhilips's popcorn hat appealed to the judes for its simplicity, humour and ingenuity: it was an outrageous idea, yet it looked right as a hat. Morag Barton's lady in a floral hat with veil caught the judges' eye for its overall simplicity of design with a burst of energy and colour that drew attention to the hat itself.

Special commendations went to runner-up Gail Ferguson, 13, of Trinity Academy, Edinburgh, who took the project a step further to construct her top hat in what looked like cardboard and plaster of Paris and then wear it herself; and to four children at The Compass School in Haddington, East Lothian. Angus Robb, aged six, Olivia Ross, five, Anya Singh, five, and Cliona Robertson, five, were praised for their lively but well controlled drawings.

"A lot of originality and thought has gone into the entries," said Mr Robinson, "demonstrating a lot of enthusiasm. We were highly entertained going through them."

He had one point of advice for stamp designers of the future: "Felt-tipped pens work less well because there's a sameness about line quality. They provide bright colours but no opportunity to produce different depths, whereas pencil crayons and paint give a whole variety of tone and texture."

Presentation packs will be sent to all entrants this week. The winners' entries will be made into stamps by the House of Questa and presented to them next term. The judges were Barry Robinson and Gillian Macdonald, assistant editor of TES Scotland

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