Together with their parents and teachers, they heard poet Michael Rosen praise their originality and flair at a time when, he said, literature was in danger of losing out to literacy.
The six winners and 14 runners up were chosen from 10,000 competitors who wrote autobiographical pieces on subjects ranging from the death of a grandparent to a visit to the dentist. The country-wide judging was organised by the National Association for the Teaching of English.
Each of the 20 finalists was presented with pound;100 by Michael Rosen and the novelist Janni Howker, and their schools will receive pound;400 towards a writer's residency.
The six winners also received pound;100 vouchers for electrical goods. All 20 were invited to a matinee performance of The Comedy of Errors at the Globe theatre.
The competition, which is funded by McDonald's Restaurants, will take place again next year. An announcement will be made in The TES in September.