March 2020

Award-winning authors visit Withernsea High School

As part of Withernsea High School’s continuing drive to develop literacy and promote the benefits of reading across all years, two award-winning authors recently visited the school to share their knowledge and experience with over 300 students.

Authors Annabel Pitcher and Rob Lloyd Jones visited the school on Monday 2nd March where they worked with Year 7 and 8 students respectively in a combination of talks and workshops.

Through participation in the school’s reading programme, Year 7 students have recently completed Mrs Pitcher’s award-winning ‘My Sister Lives On The Mantelpiece’ – a novel that tackles issues surrounding terrorism, grief and bullying. Meanwhile, Year 8 students have just finished reading Mr Lloyd Jones’ ‘Wild Boy’ – an adventure novel about a boy condemned to life in a travelling freak show, set in 1840s London.

Launched in October, the reading programme offers students focussed time in their daily tutor meetings to read books collectively. The aim is to promote reading for pleasure and enjoyment whilst also celebrating the mental health benefits that can come through starting the day in a quiet and relaxed way.

Both books proved to be extremely popular with the respective year groups, inspiring Head of English Laura Aldridge to reach out and make contact with the authors directly to arrange a visit to the school.

In a presentation to the full Year 7 cohort, Mrs Pitcher shared her inspiration for ‘My Sister Lives…’ and delivered an introduction to her next book. Approximately 30 students then enjoyed an exceptionally engaging creative writing workshop where they learnt how to write the opening to a horror story, using tips and techniques recommended by Mrs Pitcher.

Meanwhile, the Year 8 cohort enjoyed a presentation from Mr Lloyd Jones who explained some of the techniques used to come up with plots and storylines. His advice was then put in to practice as students worked collaboratively to create their own. The students were also interested to learn about Mr Lloyd Jones’ life and his journey to becoming a published author. 

A small group of selected students from each year group were also given the opportunity to hold their very own question and answer session with the authors, enabling them to gain a further insight in to the lives of professional writers.

Year 8 student Corben Catt commented: ‘Getting to hear what life is like as a writer was really fascinating and I enjoyed hearing about what inspired Mr Lloyd Jones to become an author. I was amazed to hear that he was inspired by watching a film – I never would have expected that.’

Laura Aldridge, Head of English, commented: ‘The majority of young people may not be aware that writing can be a viable career choice. Experiences such as these are therefore essential in showing our students that English is a living subject that can be relevant to their lives in a useful and useable way. I am grateful to both Annabel and Rob for their time and I know our students have gained a valuable insight into the processes of writing. I am hopeful that this experience will have encouraged students to explore their inner writer and appreciate creative writing in a way which will help them in their future studies and beyond.’

Commenting on her visit, Mrs Pitcher said: ‘It was an absolute joy to visit Withernsea High School. I enjoyed talking to the whole of Year 7 about my novel and was grilled with questions about the book and my life as an author. What a joy, too, to have the opportunity to work with young writers in hour-long creative writing workshops. When creativity is being squeezed out of the curriculum, it is wonderful to see a school working so hard to give pupils the space to write freely and imaginatively.’

Mr Lloyd jones added: ‘I had such a great day visiting Withernsea High, giving presentations about how I fell in love with books and how to get story ideas, as well as workshops on how the students can create their own stories. The groups were all super enthusiastic, and bursting with great questions - perfect! It was a pleasure to meet and talk to such engaged students.’

The visit of the two authors not only coincided with the conclusion of the students reading their books, it also tied in with the week of World Book Day – an international celebration of reading held on Thursday, 5th March. This year, students across the school took part in a reading related quiz which also formed part of the school’s reading programme.

Commenting on the further development of the programme, Olivia Hunter-Robinson, a Teacher of English who is leading the work, commented: ‘The next stage for Key Stage 3 will begin in two week’s time when all students in years 7 and 8 will choose their own books to read from a selection of 15 titles. These are being offered through the Book Buzz programme – a programme that aims to help schools inspire a love of reading in 11 to 13-year-olds by distributing free books.

Working in small groups, our students will use their books to complete a number of tasks and further develop their reading and literacy skills.

In addition, we now also have a reading programme in its infancy at Key Stage 4 (for students in years 9, 10 and 11) and we hope to continue building on our overall provision of whole school reading and literacy.’   

ABOVE: (left to right) Laura Aldridge, Withernsea High School's Head of English, with award-winning authors Annabel Pitcher and Rob Lloyd Jones.   

ABOVE: Rob Lloyd Jones shares his journey to becoming an author with Year 8 students.

ABOVE: Annabel Pitcher discusses her work with the Year 7 cohort.

ABOVE: Selected Year 7 students benefited from a creative writing workshop.

ABOVE: Year 7 students enjoyed taking part in a Q&A session.

ABOVE: Year 8 Q&A with Rob Lloyd Jones.

ABOVE: Both authors gladly answered questions from students.