One year ago The TES launched the Write Away competition to celebrate the diversity of young people's writing. Today, after a judging process made difficult by the high quality of the 10,000 entries, 20 talented pupils who were shortlisted will step up to receive their prizes, writes Heather Neill. On the following pages we present the six winners and publish their entries.
Here is some good news. Original thinking, quirky writing and the sheer pleasure of playing with the English language are alive and well in our schools. Government directives may concentrate on raising standards of literacy, but, thank goodness, plenty of teachers and pupils have not forgotten what literacy is for.
The Write Away competition gave full rein to pupils' exuberant creativity. Today we celebrate the results, with a presentation at Shakespeare's Globe in Southwark, London, and publication of the six winning pieces.
The competition kicked off almost a year ago, with the Write Away booklet, given free with The TES and produced jointly with the National Association for the Teaching of English, with funding from McDonald's Restaurants. Six autobiographical pieces, four of them specially commissioned from the authors Berlie Doherty, Mairi Hedderwick, Lemn Sissay and Beverley Naidoo, were included, each about a moment of change in childhood or adolescence. Teachers were given tips on using these in class and invited to register their schools if they wished to take part in the competition. More than 760 did so.
By December the NATE office had received 10,000 autobiographical entries from 10 to 14-year-olds from schools all over the British Isles, and one or two from further afield. All the entries concentrated on a significant moment of change in the writer's life.
After regional and national judging by NATE members and representatives of The TES and McDonald's, 20 young writers were shortlisted and invited to London. Each will receive pound;100, and each of their schools will be awarded pound;400 towards a writer's residency. The six winners will also receive a surprise gift provided by McDonald's.
Final judging was by two favourite children's writers, poet Michael Rosen and novelist Berlie Doherty, who chose three junior and three senior winners.
Mayhem caused by the death of a goldfish, a car crash in holiday sunshine, discovering jazz, the birth of a sibling, an imaginary friend called Garry, a meditation on the nature of change - these were the subjects chosen by the six winning writers. They are printed here in full as a collection.
Asked to recall a moment of significance in their young lives, writers often relived traumatic experiences such as the divorce of parents or a death in the family, but there are glimpses of humour too, as you will find if you read "My First (and Last) Pet".
Whether or not these young people become professional authors, they have all experienced the satisfaction of expressing themselves memorably and for the pleasure of others.