Write Away;TES Competition

18th June 1999 at 01:00
Judges Janni Howker and Michael Rosen had a tough task in the second TES awards for young writers: six winners to choose from a shortlist of 20 finalists - after an initial entry of 10,000. We publish the six selected short stories in full over the next eight pages. But first, Heather Neill looks back on this flourishing competition

Good news once again! Last year, 10,000 entries to the first Write Away competition proved that literary talent was flourishing in the nation's schools. Encouraged by the enthusiasm of teachers and the inventiveness of their students, we launched Write Away 2 last September.

This time, our Primary magazine addressed the need for imagination in coping with the literacy hour by publishing three specially-commissioned pieces, by Michael Rosen, Ad le Geras and Mary Hoffman to inspire young writers and their teachers. These funny, clever stories, by authors who are all favourites among juniors, led to a rise in the number of entries from primary pupils.

The Write Away 2 booklet, for secondary students, included two of last year's winning entries, Richard Shepherd's description of being inspired to play the saxophone, and Holly Knight's hilarious account of keeping - and losing - a pet goldfish. Autobiographical adult pieces came from another four distinguished children's authors - Janni Howker, Grace Nichols, Philip Pullman and Philip Ridley.

Once again we have been ably assisted with setting and judging the competition by the National Association for the Teaching of English. McDonald's Restaurants continues to fund the project generously, including today's reception at Shakespeare's Globe and tickets for the winners and their teachers to attend the matinee of the riotous production of The Comedy of Errors there.

After the regional and national judging stages by NATE members and representatives of The TES and McDonald's, 20 winners emerged from the 10,000 entries. Each will receive pound;100, and each of their schools will be awarded pound;400 towards a writer's residency. Judges Michael Rosen and Janni Howker have chosen six overall winners - three primary and three secondary, and these are published in the following pages.

Asked to write about an incident in their lives, the young writers focused on an extraordinary range of subjects, from bungling a special kick in street football to the death of a grandparent; from encountering racism for the first time to making a very personal relationship with a computer.

Humour as well as teeth was extracted in a visit to the dentist and there was poignancy in a toddler acknowledging that her wolf visitors were not real and that the first stage of childhood is at an end.

"Writing for a purpose" must have been in the minds of the teachers when these pieces were produced. More importantly, they have clearly been written with enjoyment.

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