All accredited World Class Schools are invited to enter up to three students for our annual WCSQM Essay Writing Competition. The annual competition gives World Class students the opportunity to challenge themselves with a piece of writing centred around an intellectually provocative theme, encouraging thought and debate on a range of topics that have a direct impact on young people.

The benefits of entering

  • The essay title is set, and shortlisted entries judged by, a noted academic and/or influencer, renowned in their field of expertise.
  • The competition gives schools the opportunity to motivate reluctant readers and writers, and challenge their most able students
  • Students shortlisted for the award are invited to attend our annual Awards Ceremony, where shortlisted nominees are given an honourable mention and the winner is presented with the Essay Writing Competition Award.
  • Names of the shortlisted nominees and the winner / winning essays are published on the WCSQM website.

“The impact on Ruby Bennett’s confidence in English has been massive since her shortlisting last year so it was all incredibly worthwhile. Hopefully we can go one better this year.” Howard Mealey, Wade Deacon High School, Widnes.

The 2022 essay writing competition

We were delighted to work with this year’s competition judge, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, who has set this year’s challenge and will be choosing the winning entries. ROBERT DOUGLAS-FAIRHURST is a Fellow of Magdalen College and Professor of English Literature at the University of Oxford. His books include Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist, which won the Duff Cooper Prize, and The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland, which was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award. He writes regularly for publications including The Times, Guardian, Times Literary Supplement, and Literary Review. He has also acted as a consultant on BBC productions of Jane Eyre, Emma, and Great Expectations, and the 2019 feature film Enola Holmes. In 2015, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He lives in Oxford.

The essay theme


Everyone needs friends. They are our supporters, our allies, our teammates. They make us laugh; sometimes they make us cry. You can tackle this theme in any way you like. You could write about a real friendship or a fictitious one; what it is like to make a new friend or lose an old one. What does friendship mean to you? 

You’re invited to write your essay on the theme of friendship taking any angle you choose.

The Competition Rules

The rules are as follows:

    • The competition is open to all students at your school.
    • The maximum length of each submission is 2,500 words
    • Submitted essays should not include diagrams or graphics
    • Essays must be submitted electronically in A4 portrait, using black, Helvetica, 12-point font in either MS Word / Google Docs format
    • Each submitted essay should include the name and year group of the student, and the name of the school, in the footer.
    • A maximum of three submissions per school will be accepted, and must be submitted by Friday 14th October 2022.
  • Essays should be submitted in a single email (with the three essays attached) to – i.e. one email per participating school
  • The covering email should confirm that these essays have been independently authored by the students
  • Late submissions will not be accepted
  • Shortlisting will be carried out by the English faculty and students of St Albans Girls’ School in Hertfordshire, whose year 7 student Lily Kennedy won the competition in 2021.
  • Robert Douglas-Fairhurst will read all shortlisted entries and choose the winner and runners up.

All submitting schools/students will be advised of the shortlist by 15th November.

The Awards

There will be one winner and honourable mentions, who will receive the WCSQM Essay Competition Award and commemorations from Robert Douglas-Fairhurst. Winning essays will be published on the WCSQM website, with winning students and schools named in press releases. 

The Prizes

  • Shortlisted students will be honourably mentioned on the WCSQM website and feature in WCSQM press releases.
  • Winners and runners up will be awarded a trophy / certificate, and their essays will be made available to download from the WCSQM website.
  • The winner and runners up will be invited to join Robert Douglas -Fairhurst at Magdalen College where they can enjoy a tour of the college, and an undergraduate lecture.

We suggest that

  • You run an internal competition for your students 
  • A nominated judge within your school selects the best three for submission to WCSQM.

Download the essay competition details in PDF format

The 2021 Winners

In 2021, our competition challenge was set by the Jamie Johnson novelist Dan Freedman who invited students to answer the question, “How much can motivation from parents, or the important adults in your life, help or hinder your success?” We were inundated with entries from World Class students UK wide. Shortlisting was carried out by the English faculty at President Kennedy School, and the winners chosen by Dan Freedman, who awarded the winners and commended students at the WCSQM Awards Ceremony in December 2021.

Congratulations to the winners…

Lily Kennedy was awarded the winners’ trophy by Dan Freedman at the WCSQM Awards Ceremony

1st place

Lily Kennedy, Year 7, St Albans Girls’ School

Read Lily’s essay

Runners up

Callum Dootson, Year 9, The Ashley School

Read Callum’s essay

Alan, Year 8, Sedgefield Community College

Read Alan’s essay

Honourable mentions go to
  • Ana Eloísa Almansa Muñoz, Year 7, Europa International School, Seville
  • Mohammed Toure, Year 6, Hillcrest Academy
  • Riley Chimbetete, Year 8, Bluecoat Wollaton Academy
  • Rumaitha Islam, Year 8, Featherstone High School
  • Sumayyah Dedat, Year 9, Finham Park School
  • Zehra Shah, Year 9, Higham Lane School
  • Lexy Bee-Reid, Year 10, King Ecgbert School
  • Axella Evans, Year 10, King Ecgbert School
  • Thea Lawson, Year 8, The Morley Academy
  • Arya Bassi, Year 9, President Kennedy School
  • Abshara Piratheeban, Year 8, President Kennedy School
  • Eva Matthew, Year 8, The Bishop of Llandaff CiW High School

Essay competition winners and commended students were awarded on 6th December 2021 at the WCSQM Awards Ceremony held at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford University

“Lily and I wanted to thank you for the amazing time we spent with you yesterday.  The event had such a great atmosphere and so much positive energy, it was wonderful to be part of it.  You really did succeed in making the students feel like they could achieve anything. For Lily to win the award really was the icing on the cake.” Emily Kennedy, mother of Lily Kennedy, 2021 Essay Competition winner

Dan Freedman with the 2021 runners up, Alan (left) and Callum (right)
The 2021 shortlisted essayists


As part of the winner’s prize Dan Freedman joined Lily and her peers at St Albans Girls’ School for an online visit in June 2022, so all students could hear more from Dan and had the opportunity to ask questions. We’re very grateful to Dan and all the students who participated in the essay writing competition.

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