By Pam Gough, Literacy Standards and Progression Manager at Leys Primary School
Pupils at Leys Primary School, Dagenham, embrace our school motto of ‘resilience to achieve; aspiration to succeed’, in many, many ways on a regular basis but perhaps our united effort in participating in the 2017 Wicked Young Writers Competition tops the lot for community endeavour in recent times.
As a school we are mindful of creating meaningful writing opportunities for children across the age range and work with borough advisers and outside agencies to provide appropriate stimuli to inspire children’s creative writing and to endorse pupil voice by encouraging them to write and believe in their own ideas.
Since September 2015 we have welcomed to our school authors such as M.G. Leonard – Beetle Boy, Beetle Queen, and the soon to be released Battle of the Beetles; Josh Lacey author of the Dragonsitter series of books with the fabulous illustrator Garry Parsons, as well as Elen Caldecott author of Spooks and Scooters, (via a specially arranged Skype Q & A) to our school, all of whom have inspired many of our children to read more widely across genres and begin their knowledge of the concept of authorship, and how this contributes to writing which explores, imagines and entertains.
When I became aware of the Wicked Young Writers Competition, my Worzel Gummage head of educationalist, book worm and former professional theatre and cabaret dancer got really excited on behalf of the children. I knew the creative nature of the competition with freedom to write about anything they liked would appeal to Leys Primary School pupils – and their teachers, and with the potential prize of winning a visit from a member of the London cast of Wicked as well as a Creative Writing Workshop for our school, I have to admit that as a team of teachers we did not need to do too much of a sales pitch: the children wanted to take part. They wanted to write. They were excited to know their stories were not just going to be read by myself and their class teachers but by ‘real people in the outside’, ‘famous people who knew about books and stuff’.
With the competition being run in conjunction with professional heavy weights such as The Literacy Trust, Young Writers and others, I knew it was going to be a well organised competition and a superb forum for our pupils to compete on an equal footing with other children nationally, and one which celebrated successful composition rather than tick box inclusion of technical tools. (Educationalists amongst us note the assessment changes for 2018!)
Wicked Young Writers Competition was something in which everybody, aged 5 and above, could participate. We made the connection with the beetles in Beetle Boy about working together to make something happen: our endeavour to win the prize. And you know what? We got lucky! Our ship came in. Our school was one of a few who submitted the most entries and in the youngest age group we also secured a place in the finals.
Maaz Qureshi from Year 1 found himself and his family, along with myself at the Awards Ceremony for all finalists at the Apollo Theatre Victoria, back in June 2017 and then early in the new academic year we welcomed the author and playwright Sam Gayton to our school to run the creative writing workshop for pupils from Year 5 & Year 6 and the fabulous Laura Pick from the Wicked cast came and gave a stunning live performance to the whole school. It was wonderful.
Our 2017 school results put us in the top 10% of schools nationally for progress. Our success, which we endeavour to continue, and are never complacent about, is born from the hard, hard, work of pupils and staff across the school on a daily basis. But, it’s the extras, the fairy dust of awe and wonder events such as the Wicked competition which stimulates aspiration and the author visits which broaden the literary horizon and inspire children to be …whatever they want to be…real and imagined which makes being part of Leys Primary School WICKED!
Will we be participating in 2018? Oh yes!