A Guide for Headteachers and School Leaders
Compiled by Lucy Coy, Co-Founder of HeadteacherChat in partnership with the BBC 500 Words Competition.
What is the BBC’s 500 Words Competition?
The BBC's 500 Words competition was launched in 2011 by BBC Radio 2 as a way to encourage young people to develop their writing skills and foster a love for storytelling.
This year there are two age categories: 5-7 and 8-11.
To enter, children need to write an original story that they would want to read which is no more than 500 words. More information can be found here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/500-words/stories-collection/z4fhvj6
Why does HeadteacherChat support the competition?
Because we are passionate about instilling a love of writing and storytelling in children and young people, and actively encourage teachers to take part as it’s a great way to engage children in firstly listening to stories, but also to love writing them.
One of my fondest memories of being a teacher was listening to children telling me about the stories they had written. It was magical, and as a leader, it’s a great way to instill a love of reading and writing and to see examples of children’s writing across your school.
When does it take place?
The competition opens at 8 am on the 26th September 2023, and closes at 8 pm on the 10th November 2023.
What is the age range?
5 -11 years.
What are the aims of the competition?
The competition aims to inspire creativity, imagination, and a love of writing and storytelling among children and young people.
Why should headteachers encourage teachers to enter the 500 Words competition?
- Because it celebrates a love of stories and writing across your school.
- It promotes the teaching of writing skills and helps children to enhance their creative writing ability and enjoyment.
- It fosters creativity and encourages children to use their imagination to explore unique story ideas and concepts.
- It introduces children to the magic of a good story, allowing them to explore other worlds and to ignite their imagination.
- It’s a great way to celebrate children’s writing and to showcase their work.
- It’s an opportunity to explore different genres such as adventure, mystery, fantasy and more.
- It’s accessible for all, and actively promotes diversity and inclusion.
‘The children always love taking part in 500 Words. It's a great way to get the children engaged and enthusiastic about writing within a real project, with low stakes and big prizes. I'd recommend all heads to encourage their teachers to get involved, I have no doubt they'll be impressed with what their children come up with!’ Dave McPartlin, Headteacher – Flakefleet Primary school/ BGT golden buzzer contestant
What are the benefits of being involved as a school?
- Start the beginning of the year by celebrating children’s writing, and instilling a love of stories.
- Gain a snapshot of your children’s writing at the beginning of the school year, (potentially across your whole school).
- Children of all abilities and backgrounds can take part. To support this, the BBC have partnered with National Book Tokens to offer a £50 book token, plus three £10 pupil book tokens, to schools in most deprived areas. All schools in England with higher than 60% free school meals eligibility will qualify.
- Be a part of the incredible research being carried out by the Oxford University Press, who have collected almost a million stories since the competition began. Their research helps teachers to know what our children are interested in, from politics to world events, to celebrities and football, and how that is changing over time.
How many children can we include? Can I get the whole school involved?
Yes! You can enter as many as you would like. We think it’s a great opportunity to see all of your children’s writing in one snapshot, and therefore it’s a useful tool to assess children’s writing. You can use this information for your school development and improvement plan.
One thing you will need to consider is that an adult will need to enter each child’s entry, and their parent/guardian will need to have given permission to do so. Any adult can submit a child’s entry, it doesn’t have to be a teacher, as long as they have access to the BBC 500 words website.
How to enter your school:
Step 1: Plan which year group/s will take part, how and when.
Step 2: Share the information with teachers here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/500-words
Step 3: Inspire your pupils by holding an assembly to introduce the idea
Step 4: Watch the 30 minute live lesson on 27th September at 11am
How easy is it for teachers to be involved?
It’s very easy for teachers to be involved, and it’s an excellent opportunity for teachers to inspire children in writing and also to gather an insight as to how they write.
All of the teaching resources are readily available from the BBC website, and has advice for submitting stories and alternative ways to submit entries here : https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/500-words/how-to-submit/zqc8mbk
One thing that teachers and leaders need to be aware of is the fact that an adult needs to enter each child’s entry onto the BBC’s website, and that a parent/guardian, needs to give their permission to share it.
Optional ideas on how to celebrate the event further within your school:
- Hold an open evening with all the children’s writing on display for everyone to enjoy.
- Invite authors into school and make it a special story writing day or week.
- Invite parents/guardians in to read stories, and to share stories that they may have written themselves.
- Link the stories to your current topics so that children can further immerse themselves in their learning.
Download a poster here:
Find out more about the BBC’s 500 Words Competition here: