Pros in prose: Premier League Writing Stars poetry competition winners announced

More than 25,000 primary school children across England and Wales have penned a poem for the second annual Premier League Writing Stars poetry competition. Themed on diversity, the competition encouraged five to 11-year-olds to explore what makes us ‘Beautifully different, Wonderfully the Same’ using a poem created especially for Writing Stars by poet Joseph Coelho.

‘Being Different’ written by a group of Year One pupils from St. Finbar’s Catholic Primary School in Liverpool and ‘An Ordinary Girl from Birmingham’ by Maariya, aged nine, of Heathfield Primary School in Birmingham were selected as the national winners for Key Stage 1 (5-7 years) and Key Stage 2 (7-11 years) respectively.

Judging was completed by a stellar panel, which included Waterstones Children’s Laureate Lauren Child, former Premier League footballer Rio Ferdinand, singer-songwriter Olly Murs and poet Joseph Coelho. All poems were judged on a range of criteria including creativity, tone and originality.

Rio Ferdinand said: “We were sitting there saying, 'Are these kids really this age, writing this?' Some of the vocabulary, the language, the ideas and the way the poems took shape... it seemed more like university students!

“Congratulations to all the kids who took part because it has been a really difficult task going through all the entries and finding the winner. We could have picked so many."

The competition was supported by the National Literacy Trust and is part of the Premier League Primary Stars education programme, which uses the appeal of the Premier League and professional football clubs to inspire children to learn, be active and develop important life skills. Since its launch in 2017, Primary Stars has engaged more than 16,000 primary schools and 37,000 teachers across England and Wales.

As well as deciding the two national winners, this year’s judging panel also selected the 10 regional winners across the two Key Stages.

Singer-songwriter Olly Murs said: “I was so impressed by the Premier League Writing Stars entries. It’s the first time I’ve been involved so I didn’t really know what to expect but wow… they exceeded my expectations.

“The quality of the writing is amazing. It’s incredible to see children using poetry and their imagination to put their feelings about diversity on paper.”

The national winning poets have already received a visit from the Premier League Trophy and a poetry workshop from competition judge Joseph Coelho. Illustrator David Mackintosh has created bespoke pictures that will feature alongside their winners’ poems in a limited-edition Writing Stars book which will be published and distributed to schools later this year. The book will also feature poems from celebrity friends of Premier League Writing Stars and other children who performed commendably in the competition. The national winners’ poems will then be used in an advertising campaign which will be visible across England and Wales in May.

Joseph Coelho said: “The Key Stage 1 winning poem, ‘Being Different’, stood out because it had a great structure. You have these regular rhyming couplets and a wonderful message which seems to refer to the poets’ own experiences of possibly struggling with but then celebrating diversity.

“Maariya’s poem, ‘An Ordinary Girl from Birmingham’ which is the Key Stage 2 winner, is wonderful. It has a really strong voice. It talks about her parents being from the North or South and how that doesn’t matter because together they make her world, which is such a beautiful sentiment.”

Waterstones Children’s Laureate Lauren Child, said: “I think poetry is one of the most powerful ways to communicate and express how you’re feeling inside. By having the football community value the importance of reading and writing, it speaks to children who may not have written a poem before.”

Visit www.plprimarystars.com to find out how your school can be involved with Premier League Primary Stars

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