First Story National Writing Competition

Echoes Tile_Logo-Large


We’re inviting students from all secondary state schools across the country to submit 850 words or less of poetry or prose on the theme of ‘Echoes’. Students can explore this theme and its associations in any way they choose: we’re looking forward to seeing imaginative and innovative entries! The deadline for entries is Friday 4th December, 2015.

The First Story National Writing Competition will be run in affiliation with The Sunday Times, which will publish the winner’s piece in The Sunday Times online. Three winners will also earn a place on an Arvon creative writing residential course and be published in a collected anthology. This is a wonderful opportunity, and we want as many students to take part as possible!

This year, the competition will be judged by acclaimed writers Adam Foulds, Helen Mort, James Dawson and Laura Dockrill and the fantastic prizes offered are:

  • Publication of the winning piece in The Sunday Times online.
  • An Arvon creative writing residential course for the winners and three of their friends PLUS you, the teacher.
  • Being published in a collected anthology.
  • Attending a special prize-giving ceremony for all the shortlisted writers, their schools and the public at a prestigious London venue.
  • Also, teachers can enter writing themselves, in a separate contest: the winner, selected by the judges, will also get a place on the Arvon course and be included in the anthology.
The Details

The competition is split into three stages:

  • School level:
    • We want the whole school to get involved! Pupils are challenged to write a piece of 850 words or less on ‘Echoes’ – or what an image or phrase presented to them in relation to this concept – means to them.
    • They will submit their writing to you, and you need to select the three best pieces to enter into the competition.
    • We will provide you with posters, an assembly presentation and workshop ideas to get the creative juices flowing.
    • We’ll give £30 to each school that enters to use as a prize within the school.
    • The first 25 teachers to get over 50 entries within their school will get £100!
  • National level:
    • A longlist of fifty entries will be selected by experienced readers
      chosen by First Story.
    • The longlist will be sent to the judges who will select four stories from each key stage (KS3, 4 and 5, twelve stories in total) to form the shortlist.
    • This shortlist will then be reviewed by the judges. The panel will pick one winner from each key stage and an overall winner of the whole competition.
    • The final shortlist of twelve entries will be published in an anthology. All shortlisted students will be celebrated at a prize-giving event in March 2016.
    • Each key stage winner will gain a place on a dedicated Arvon creative writing residential, along with three peers and a teacher from their school.
  • Teacher competition:
    • A separate strand of the competition will run for teachers to take part, in which teachers also write one piece 850 words or less on the theme ‘Echoes’. We are really keen to see your writing too!
    • Teachers’ entries will be judged by the panel of authors and the winning teacher will gain a place on the Arvon residential.
    • Up to three teachers may enter the competition per school.


How to Submit

Please only submit the three winning entries from your school.

To submit the three winning entries (plus up to three teachers’ entries), please send the following:

  • Entries as individual word documents, labelled with the student’s name, key stage and school.
  • Competition Submission School Form, with details of all three entries.
  • IP consent forms in hard copy (plus scans emailed if you wish).

Please email these using the subject line ‘First Story National Writing Competition’, to:

Please also send hard copies of your IP consent forms in the post to:
First Story, Omnibus Business Centre, 39-41 North Road, London, N7 9DP


All the answers to your questions are in the FAQ’s here. Guidance for teachers and full Terms and Conditions are available here.


Detailed Information:
Teachers’ Pack


Top Tips for Writing
A3 Schools Poster
A3 Libraries Poster
Example Echo Poems and Stories
Last year’s collected winner’s anthology
Assembly presentation
Echoes Longlist Certificate
Echoes Participant Certificate

Entry Forms:
School Entry Form (one per school)
IP Consent Form (one per student)

If you would like more information about the competition, or need to contact us for any reason, please email us!


In an ideal world, every school student would have First Story every week. Until that happens, the National Writing Competition gives all young people (and their teachers) a chance to write for pleasure with the possibility of winning a fantastic prize.

Juno Dawson, author of YA novels Hollow Pike and Say Her Name and National Writing Competition judge

‘First Story is a place where test grades, maths and scientific logic are long forgotten, and is where the juice of your creativity can be squeezed out of the mundane classrooms of school and all things confining. First Story is freedom for your imagination, and for the love of writing to be a piece of art, or a way escape; anything your will moulds it to be.’
Mukahang Limbu, winner of the First Story National Writing Competition in 2014