Children’s Writing Competitions

Writing competitions for children in the UK

Young writer’s competitions for children and teens aged 5-18

Please read our list of writing competitions for children. The contests are checked and updated each month. We are happy to feature writing challenges open to primary-age children, secondary-age pupils, and young adults in the UK. If you would like your competition featured here, please contact us. We are happy to feature competitions with at least one month remaining before the closing date. We have also compiled a list of recommended creative writing manuals and writing workshop activity guides suitable for use with KS1, KS2, KS3, and KS4 at the bottom of this page.

New competitions are listed at the top of each month. Past and annual competitions are listed below.


Writing competitions for children and teens

Please notemany previously annual competitions were or are being affected by the recession, lockdown, COVID or cost of living crisis. This is beyond our control.

Closing date in May

  • The Poetry of Science Competition – Can you write a ‘terrific scientific poem‘? Each entrant can enter one poem of up to 150 words. There are three age group categories: 5-7, 8-11 and 12-16. For schools, there’s a downloadable poster for classrooms here. Winners will be invited to Oxford to attend a celebration event and perform their poems.
  • Never Such Innocence – The 2024 theme is “How does war affect people’s lives?”, and to enter children and teens can ‘using poetry, art, speech and song’. There are four age group categories (9-11;  11-14;  14-16;  & 16-18) and full details are on the competition website.
  • The D.H. Lawrence Children’s Prize: Writing Competition is open to students aged 11 and under and 12-16, who can enter up to 500 words on the theme of “The Four Seasons”. Prizes include Kindles and book tokens.
  • Bournemouth Writing Festival is running an international students competition, with the theme of “On Bournemouth Beach“. It’s open to international students aged 16+ whose first language is not English.
  • War Through Children’s Eyes is open to children aged 7-17 and aims to “raise awareness of the impact of wars and violent conflicts on the communities caught up in them, and particularly on the most vulnerable members of those communities: their children“. Entries of up to 1000 words are invited, there are vouchers for the top three entries and full details are available on the website.
  • The Henrietta Branford Writing Competition is open to young people under the age of 19. The competition features a starter paragraph and invites entrants to write under 1000 words to continue the story.

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Closing date in June

  • BCC Young Entrepreneurs, run by First News invites young entrepreneurs aged 5-15 to write up to 200 words about their business idea or innovation. There are four categories to pick from and prizes include a trip to the British Chambers of Commerce’s Global Annual Conference.
  • Stories of the Future creative challenge. What does the future hold for young people around the world? asks this international competition run by Earth4All. With three categories: 15 and under, 16-18 and 19-21, students can enter writing up to 800 words or videos of up to 1.5 minutes. Full details are on the competition website. There are free resources and posters for schools.
  • In The b small Young Language Learner Award, 6-11 year olds can “send in a story or comic written in a language of their choice, other than a mother tongue.” There are French and Spanish activity packs available for teachers.
  • The Philosophy Garden ‘Write a Script’ competition invites 11-18-year-olds to submit a nature-themed script for a short explainer video using animal characters to tell a story. Full details are on the website. The best entries will be made into a video to be exhibited in the Philosophy Museum in Milan.
  • The Wells Festival of Literature offers young poets aged 16-25 the opportunity to enter poems of up to 35 lines on any subject for the annual Young Poets Competition. All entries must be in English.
  • Celebration Day writing competition – entrants are invited to write 250 words (primary) or 500 words (secondary) to tell the story of an inspirational person they know. There are five age categories: 5-7; 8-10; 11-13; 14-16; 17-18 & teachers. Full details and resources are available on the competition website and the Celebration Day website.
  • The Orwell Youth Prize – for secondary students aged 12-18, entries can be in any form, up to 1000 words. This year’s task is to respond to this title: “The Future We Want”.
  • Cambridge University and SATIPS handwriting competition.

Closing date in July

  • Martha Mills Young Writers’ Prize invites 11-14-year-olds living in the UK to enter 500 words or less on a prescribed theme. There are cash prizes and books for three winners. Full details are on the competition website run by London Review Bookshop.
  • Young & Talented Cornwall invites 16-23-year-old residents of Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly who ‘aspire to see your work in print, on stage or on screen‘ to enter a personal statement and sample of work – both of up to 500 words – in this creative writing award scheme ‘to help budding Cornish writers‘. Grants of up to £1000 are available, together with a reading award of up to £150 worth of books.
  • The Laurie Lee Prize for Writing offers a young person’s category for those who either live in Gloucestershire or were born in Gloucestershire.  16–20-year-olds  can enter up to 2500 words or up to 125 lines of poetry on “a nature or conservation theme”. There are more details on the competition website.
  • The Young Wild Writers competition, run by Hen Harrier Action invites children aged 5-8, 9-12 and 13-16 to enter stories, poems, articles, prose or letters of up to 500 words on the theme of Human Impact. Prizes include book vouchers and an online author visit to the winning child’s school. Full details, including a downloadable poster, are on the competition website.
  • The Hampshire Young Poets competition is open to any young person aged 4-7; 8-11 or 12-16 “who lives or studies in Hampshire“. Entrants can submit up to 14 lines of poetry on the theme of ‘home’. Full details are on the competition website.
  • Foyle Young Poets competition – for 11-17-year-olds, the competition welcomes “poems on any theme and any length”.
  • Stephen Spender Trust poetry in translation prize – the challenge is to translate a poem from any language into English. There are three categories for young people: U18, U16, and U14. The top prize is £1000.
  • Ledbury Under 18’s poetry competition. Two categories – 11 and under and 12-17 request poems of no more than 40 lines in length. There are cash prizes or book tokens for the winners.
  • HG Wells short story competition.

Closing date in August

  • Overgrowth Magazine is running an Undergrowth competition open to 16-19-year-olds who can submit 500 words of writing, or artwork, in any form “about nature and our relationship to it.” Full details and ideas are on the competition webpage.
  • Goldsmiths University of London is running a series of competitions for 16-18-year-olds who are invited to a short story, a piece of journalism with a historical angle, or a piece about identity and culture. The Young Writer, Young Columnist, and Young Anthropologist competitions close on 2nd August.
  • Cinemagic Young Filmmaker – open to films on any subject from young filmmakers aged under 25. The prizes include winning films being screened in cinemas.
  • Young Muslim Writers Award – open to UK children and teens in KS1, KS2, KS3 and KS4 who can submit a short story or poetry – and in KS3 and KS4, this is extended to also include journalism, screenplays, and play scripts. Full details are on the website.

Closing date in September

  • The annual OxBright Essay Competition invites 15-18-year-olds to submit an essay of up to 3,800 characters (around 500 words). Details of the theme and subject requirements are on the competition website.
  • Atom Learning’s Young Author Award offers 7-9-year-olds and 10-11-year-olds the chance to win a trip to Disneyland Paris. Children can enter fiction stories of up to 500 words inspired by the theme “If I were in charge for a day…” There’s also a free creative writing activity pack to download.
  • C.A.B.B Publishing is running a short story competition for children. Full details are available on their website.
  • The Betty Haigh Shakespeare Prize – is open to “any sixth-form student of English Literature”. There are two options, both with detailed entry criteria which can be viewed on the competition website.

Closing date in October

  • ‘If Dylan met Thomas Hardy’ is the title of a new competition hosted by the Dylan Thomas Society and the Thomas Hardy Society. Writers aged 11+ can submit a play of up to 15 minutes in length for up to four cast members. The best three plays entered will be performed at the Dylan Thomas Theatre.
  • The Yorkshire Festival of Story Children’s Story Competition invites short stories from UK children aged 7-12.
  • Royal Geographical Society School Essay Competition – an annual competition, run in association with the Financial Times, for 16-19-year-olds, with a closing date in October.
  • The Young Walter Scott Prize is dedicated to historical fiction, defined as “in a time before you were born”, and this competition has two age categories: 11-15 and 16-19. Entries can be prose, poetry, drama, fictional letters, or reportage. The closing date is the end of October.
  • The Solstice Prize For Young Writers, organised by Writing East Midlands, invites children and teens aged 7-17 to write ‘imaginative short stories (up to 500 words) and provocative poems (up to 40 lines)’. The competition offers cash prizes and an anthology of the best entries. There are three age categories: 7-11, 12-14 and 15-17.
  • Saugus Halloween story writing contest.

Closing date in November

  • BBC 500 words short story competition for children –  with two age group categories, 5-7-year-olds and 7-11-year-olds.
  • The WILD WORDS National Eco-Poetry Project is open to young people aged 18 and under in the UK, who are asked to “imagine co-writing a poem with a tree, river, or even the weather”. Poem entries should be a maximum of one side of A4. Full details are on the competition website.
  • Poetry Together Competition – children under 18 in the UK are invited to enter poems of no more than 14 lines on a theme detailed on the competition website, and choose a poem on any theme to learn by heart. There are two age group categories and full details are available on the competition website.
  • The East Riding Festival of Words runs an annual poetry competition. Entries of up to 45 lines are open to children aged 4-10 and 11-16 and there are cash prizes for the winners.
  • The Tadpole Press 100 Word Writing Contest is a worldwide competition open to writers of all ages. There’s an entry fee for this one, with cash prizes and writing development packages on offer for the winners. The deadline is November 30th.
  • Wenlock Olympian Society Short Story Competition – open to students aged 16+ who are invited to write a story on any theme of up to 2500 words. Full entry details are on the Wenlock website.
  • One Teen Story – story submission site for teenagers. The deadline is 27th November.
  • The Benjamin Franklin House Literary Prize for writers aged 18-25 invites entries of 1000-1500 words on a Franklin quote which changes each year. The deadline is 30th November.

Closing date in December

  • Love Letters to London, run by the London Society, offers children aged 11 and under and 12-18 year-olds the opportunity to win cash prizes by entering prose (fiction, essays, and reportage) or poetry that celebrates ‘our wonderful, fantastic, infuriating city’. Full details, including this year’s theme, can be found on the competition website.
  • Into Film awards will hopefully return in 2024. See also the ‘Film of the Month’ competition and the extensive resources to encourage school film clubs.

Closing date in January

  • This Page is Printed offers an under-18s competition with cash prizes for entries of up to one page of A4 ‘in any genre: prose, poetry, script’. Judges will be looking for ‘something that dares to be different.’
  • The Young Cartoonist Awards have an under-18 category where children and teens can enter ‘pocket (gag) cartoons, political cartoons and short strip cartoons.’
  • The Cheshire Prize for Literature invites primary and secondary-aged students to enter short stories, poetry, children’s literature and scriptwriting. To qualify, entrants ‘must live or have lived, work or have worked, studied or have studied in Cheshire, Wirral, Warrington or Halton.’
  • The Royal Mint Museum short story competition – will return in January 2024.
  • The Japan Society runs the World Children’s Haiku Contest. Students aged 15 and under can enter a haiku on A4 or letter-sized paper on the theme of “family”, accompanied by hand-drawn artwork on the same page. Full details are available on the competition website.
  • The Immerse Essay Competition offers teens aged 13-18 the opportunity to write an essay choosing from a range of topics including architecture, science, law, international relations, medicine, economics, creative writing and many more. There are two age groups: 13-15 and 16-18. The deadline is 4th January.
  • North Eastern University London is running an essay competition for students in year 12. Pupils can submit up to 1,500 words, choosing from a range of set essay titles that span a broad range of topics including humanities, philosophy, social issues, the law and creative writing. There are cash prizes for the top three entries.
  • The Korean Spirit & Culture Promotion Project Essay Contest is an international competition open to children in two age group categories: years 6-9 and years 10-13. There are cash prizes for the top three entries and honourable mentions in each category. Full entry details are available on this information poster. All submissions must be submitted by 15th January.
  • The Herne Hill Lit Fest is running a “Stepping into Stories” competition for children aged 4-7, 8-11 and 12+. The theme is “bouncing back“. Entries can be written stories, drawings, comic strips, poetry, raps, or digital animations. There are book token prizes for the winners.
  • Bournemouth Young Writers prize – open to children in years 3&4, and years 5&6 and stories can be “about anything you like“. Prizes include £150 worth of books.
  • Rotary Club International Young Writer competition.

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Closing date in February

  • The Philosophy Garden is running a ‘Write a Script’ competition. Open to 11-18-year-olds in full-time education who live in the UK, students are invited to write a script for a short explainer video ‘to explore how people with different beliefs and values can deal with disagreement and come to a decision or solve a problem together.’ Full details can be found on the competition webpage.
  • The Elmbridge Literary Competition is open to children under 18 (free) in four age group categories: 5-7; 8-11; 11-13 and 14-18. The theme for 2024 is “Fame”. Short stories or poems can be entered. Full entry details and requirements can be viewed on the competition website.
  • Perse Research’s Year 9 Aristotelian Award is open to students in Year 9 or equivalent. The award exists to “promote the independent study skills in Year 9 pupils while simultaneously providing an avenue to explore super-curricular interests in the arts, humanities and sciences.” Entrants are invited to write an 800-1500 word essay choosing a title from a choice of topics and essay titles spanning arts, humanities and the sciences.
  • The Canterbury Tales Writing Competition – annual – open to all children of school age, including school and college pupils, home-educated children and entries from young people’s community organisations. There are three age categories: 5-10; 11-14 and 15-18. The 2024 theme is “Being Part of a Group“.
  • Bright Light Education Creative Writing Competition for children aged 7-13. This annual competition returns in 2023 and is open to all children in the UK, with three age categories – 7-9, 9-11 and 11-13. Entries need to be a 500-word story (full criteria on the website) inspired by Joseph Coelho’s advice on the website.  Closes on February 28th.
  • The Royal Society of Literature invites students aged 13-18 to write up to 500 words about “the writer from the past that most inspires them“. Prizes for the “History is in the Making” competition include book tokens for both entrants and the school.
  • The Hugo Young Award – held in memory of Guardian political columnist Hugo Young, this competition encourages “fresh voices” aged 16-18 and 19-25 from UK state schools to pen political opinion pieces. Highly recommended for students studying A-level politics, sociology or looking towards a career in journalism.
  • Voices – a writing competition, run by the charity Coram Voice, which is open to children and young people who are in or have experience with the care system.
  • Christopher Tower Poetry Prize – open to young adults aged 16-18.

Closing date in March

  • Young Science Writer of the Year Award – run by the Association of British Science Writers, this award is open to UK pupils aged 14-16 in non-selective state schools. Students can submit up to 800 words “on any subject in science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics.”
  • Humanimal Trust Creative Awards – children and teens aged 7-18 can share their creative skills on the theme of ‘Time to Connect‘ in four age group categories: 7-9; 10-11; 12-15 & 16+. Full details are on the competition website.
  • Young Songwriter 2024 – “The world’s leading songwriting competition for young aspiring songwriters, aged 8-18“. Children are invited to enter up to five songs. There are three age group categories for UK children and teens: 8-12; 13-15 & 16-18. Full details are on the Song Academy website.
  • The BBC Young Reporter Competition is open to children and teens aged 11-18 who “want to report on a story or issue which is important to their life or the world around them”.
  • Young Financial Journalist Competition – open to secondary students aged 14-15, 15-15, 16-17 and 18-19. “We are seeking well-argued articles from students aged 14–19”.
  • Fitzwilliam College Cambridge is running a series of essay competitions aimed at pupils in their penultimate year of education before university – i.e. Year 12, S5 or Y13 (Northern Ireland). Entries (written in English) are welcome from around the world. With six categories: Ancient World and Classics, Archaeology, History, Land Economy, Medieval World, and Architecture; this competition is highly recommended for 6th formers and could provide useful evidence for university applications, a starting point for an EPQ project, or a talking point for an admissions interview. The deadline is 3rd March.
  • The BBC Young Writer’s Award – is open to 14-18-year-olds who can submit a piece of original fiction of up to 1000 words. Highly recommended.
  • The Portico Sadie Massey Awards feature two competitions open to children. There’s the KS2, KS3, KS4, and KS5 Young Readers Competition (write a book review – any genre – on any subject) and the Young Writers competition, open to pupils in KS3,4&5 (write a story based in the North of England.)
  • The Girton College Humanities Writing Competition – open to Year 12 students in the UK, the writing task is based on five objects in the college’s antiquities museum.
  • The Royal Mint runs an annual competition for primary school pupils aged 8-11 who can enter short stories of up to 500 words. Prizes include books for the school library. For this year’s theme and entry details, see the competition website.
  • The Lowry’s Creative Writing Challenge is open to children aged 7-11 from across Salford and Greater Manchester. “Pupils can draw on all aspects of writing for performance“, and enter writing of up to 500 words including poetry and stories or up to three minutes of playscript.
  • The ISA Handwriting Competition is open to children in years 1, 2, 3-4 & 5-6 in ISA member schools, “to showcase their handwriting skills”.

Closing date in April

  • The Guardian newspaper is running a Young Country Diary writing competition open to 8-14-year-olds based in the UK. Six winners will be published in the Guardian and to enter students need to write a 200-250 word article about ‘a recent encounter they’ve had with nature’. Full details can be found on the competition webpage.
  • Pitch Magazine is running a Young Sports Journalist competition. Students aged 14-24 can enter an article of 400-600 words in response to the question prompts on the website. There are four age group categories: 14-15, 16-17, 18-19 and 20-21 and there’s a £50 prize and work experience opportunity for each winning entry.
  • Tadpole Press is running a worldwide 100-word writing contest open to writers of all ages. 100 words can be submitted in any genre. There is an entry fee for this competition and there’s a cash prize for 1st place and writing coaching and editing packages for the 2nd and 3rd places. The deadline is 30th April.
  • Reading Zone offers a Create a Picture Book competition that’s open to 4-18-year-olds in three age group categories: 4-7; 7-11 and 11+. Prizes include £200 of books.
  • Author of Tomorrow – run by the Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation, the Author of Tomorrow prize aims to find adventure writers of the future. Young people under 21 can submit entries between 1500 and 5000 words (under 500 words for primary-aged pupils). The prizes are £1000 for the 16-21 age group, £100 and £150 in book tokens for the 12-15 age group, and £100 and £150 in book tokens for the 11 and under age group.
  • The Day ‘Young Journalist Awards” are open to anyone under 19 (under 10 and 11-18)  and entrants can submit a written article, a video clip, an audio piece, photography, an illustration or a graphic in any one of 12 subject categories. Full details including how to enter are on the competition website.

Undated or open

  • The Scottish Book Trust runs monthly mini-sage 50-word story writing competitions for children aged 5-11 and 12-18, with a different theme each month.
  • Wordhound runs a monthly creative writing challenge for children aged 12 and under, who can send in 300-word stories “of funny, weird or otherwise unique writing” on a different subject each month.
  • Kids’ Poetry Club runs a variety of competitions for primary and secondary-aged children, with a new theme announced every few months.
  • The Young Poets Network runs regular writing challenges and competitions, which can be viewed on their website.
  • BBC Today Student Journalism Awards – annual. this competition features a variety of journalism categories, including journalism (any medium), broadcasting, visual and photojournalism, criticism, publication, and programme. Entrants must be over 18 and in full-time UK higher education. The prizes include places on highly coveted BBC Journalism Trainee Schemes (paid positions).
  • BBC Writers Room is inviting speculative screenplay submissions of at least 30 pages from young scriptwriters aged 16+ in the UK or the Republic of Ireland.
  • Blue Things Zine invites young writers aged 13+ to write articles and stories under 1500 words for consideration for publication.
  • Scholastic We Are Writers – not a competition per-se, but lots of ideas for literacy and writing projects with the aim of getting your pupils published. Ideal for fundraisers or whole-school writing initiatives.
  • Inkhead short story competition and writing clubs.
  • Amnesty International has a series of online resources – ‘Words That Burn‘ – to inspire teenagers to write about human rights, equality and discrimination.
  • National Literacy Trust competitions page.
  • Readers’ Digest Competitions. – including a 100-word story competition for children.
  • The Guild of Food Writers Write It – Young Food Writer of the Year – is open to children up to 18 in three age categories.
  • Live Canon: Children’s Poetry Competition – for young people aged 5-18.
  • For a non-competitive option, the John Muir Award offers schools an opportunity to “encourage people of all backgrounds to connect with, enjoy and care for wild places.” Through an award scheme, pupils can create a dossier of experiences, challenges and presentations to demonstrate how they have discovered a wild place, explored it, done something to conserve it and shared their experience. A good option for larger groups, classes and year groups, this award requires teacher input and planning. Suitable for year 4 through to secondary-aged pupils.
  • The First Story Young Writers Festival offers pupils a day-long online festival with workshops, resources, interviews with writers, showcases for young writers, resources and CPD for teachers. This is a fantastic resource to inspire children to write for publication and would make a great starting point for pupils considering entering writing competitions. (Note the festival is not running a competition of its own).

Resources for creative writing in schools and at home

Websites

  • Hoo’s Writing Corner – an exciting creative writing website for primary-aged children. The website includes writing prompts and exercises, and the monthly subscription magazine includes story construction ideas and spelling worksheets.

Books

  • Below is a collection of books recommended to inspire children to write – whether it be creative writing, nonfiction, or poetry.
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Help! We Need a Story by James Harris

Artie and his macaque friends are very, very bored. But with some art materials, inspiration breaks out on the highly illustrated pages, and they create a book – a book with amazing characters, fantastic places, dastardly monsters and incredible stories. This inspirational book will teach children to think with freedom and write imaginatively with creative confidence. Highly recommended for 3-6 year olds and EYFS/KS1 classes. We particularly liked the superhero Fonzie Lion!

Help! We Need a Story by James Harris

Write Like a Ninja: An essential toolkit for every young writer by Andrew Jennings

This cracking guide to using vocabulary and grammar effectively in KS2 is designed to be used independently by children. Ideal for homework, home learning and SATs revision, this is a useful and worthwhile resource to help build confidence and inspire children to write with greater ambition and accuracy.

Write Like a Ninja: An essential toolkit for every young writer by Andrew Jennings

500 Words: A collection of short stories that reflect on the Black Lives Matter movement

An inspiring collection of stories by 5-13-year-olds submitted to the 500 words competition in 2020. This anthology includes writing tips from Malorie Blackman, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Charlie Higson, and Francesca Simon. A great resource for school creative writing clubs and children interested in entering competitions.

500 Words: A collection of short stories that reflect on the Black Lives Matter movement

Descriptosaurus by Alison Wilcox

A fantastic resource for children and pupils aged 8-14 which helps the writer build up descriptions using increasingly sophisticated prompts. Great as a starting point for original ideas.

Descriptosaurus by Alison Wilcox

How to Write your Best Story Ever! by Christopher Edge

Ideal for children in primary and early secondary schools aged 9-12, this book uses humour and illustrations to help the writer to focus ideas clearly and structure stories. This writing guide is very thorough, but also very accessible and great fun.

How to Write your Best Story Ever! by Christopher Edge

How to Write Poems by Joseph Coelho

A plethora of fun activities covering a huge range of poetry forms and styles. There are lots of funny and child-friendly starting points and short, sharp writing challenges. Great for primary-aged children at home or in school.

How to Write Poems by Joseph Coelho

Just Imagine by James Carter

This a must-have book for every classroom and creative writing teacher of children aged 8-14. This is a stunning resource, complete with a soundscape CD and images, which will transform your pupils’ experience of writing. Great for English lessons, extracurricular clubs, and reluctant writers.

Just Imagine by James Carter

Spilling Ink – A Young Writer’s Handbook by Ellen Potter & Anne Mazer

A useful and practical guide for developing ideas, building plots and redrafting and improving. Some thought-provoking writing prompts are included. Best suited to children aged 11+.

Spilling Ink - A Young Writer's Handbook by Ellen Potter & Anne Mazer

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

One of the most accessible adult writing guides ever written. Some great advice on creating atmosphere, using dialect, and building a plot. King references many key texts in English and American literature – and for this reason, this book would make an interesting – and very readable – addition to GCSE and A-level courses.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

For more competition ideas, have a look at our public speaking and debating contests.

Browse our list of Children’s Book Publishers in the UK

Peruse our list of magazines for children and teens


Why not have a look at our suggested reading lists for children aged 3-16?

Books for EYFS & ReceptionBooks for Year 1Books for Year 2Books for Year 3Books for Year 4Books for Year 5Books for Year 6Books for Year 7Books for Year 8Books for Year 9Books for Year 10Books for Year 11Books for 6th formers


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About Tom Tolkien

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Tom Tolkien is a highly qualified (BA Hons, PGCE, QTS) children's literature expert and teacher with over 25 years of experience. He has led inset courses, developed curriculum materials, spoken at conferences, advised on longlisting for several international children's literature literature awards and written for educational publishers including contributing to a BETT award-nominated app. Social profiles: Twitter | Linkedin