• Edtech platform Connected Creatives will empower secondary school pupils to self-publish their writing on a free, teacher-moderated platform
  • Young Voices Matter: Connected Creatives aims to draw attention to the importance of creative writing for building relationships and boosting mental health following the isolation of lockdown and school closures
  • The platform is launching with a 500 word competition endorsed by Malala Yousafzai, whose activism has inspired millions of people across the globe

Secondary school students across the UK are being invited to enter a new creative writing competition, backed by the world’s youngest Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai and The National Literacy Trust.

The 500 Word Malala Yousafzai Competition has officially launched on 8th September, to mark International Literacy Day 2020. The theme for this year’s UNESCO-led awareness day is “literacy teaching and learning in the Covid-19 crisis and beyond”.

The competition is on Connected Creatives, a new edtech platform that is free for use by schools, teachers, and pupils, in order to encourage diversity of writing and fairness in educational opportunities.

It is believed the competition will provide a much-needed creative outlet for young people who have been struggling with the impact of COVID-19 on their education and mental health.

Research by Young Minds in June this year found that 80% of young people said that the coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse, while 87% of respondents said they had felt lonely or isolated during the lockdown period.

Meanwhile, the creative industries are among the most affected by the Coronavirus outbreak with the Creative Industries Federation estimating that more than 400,000 creative jobs are likely to be lost causing a “cultural catastrophe” of job losses, business closures, and lost creative outlets and opportunities for young people.

Using the Connected Creatives platform, secondary school pupils can submit various kinds of creative work, non-fiction and fiction, including stories, poetry, journals, blogs, graphic novels, illustrations, lyrics, and music. The 500-word limit has been chosen so that young people don’t face the overwhelming barrier of writing longer pieces of work.

Students have the choice of self-publishing their work – allowing students to consume and comment on content submitted by peers – or keeping pieces of writing private, eliminating the pressure of writing for an audience. Connected Creatives empowers students to retain control over their work and who see it. All entrants to the Malala Yousafzai competition will be able to self-publish and share their work, ensuring that their efforts are not wasted, unlike in other writing competitions where submissions may never receive any recognition or feedback.

Young people can also share their creative outputs with family members and the wider online community if they wish to do so. All work and comments are moderated by teachers before publication to keep the platform safe and age-appropriate.

The creative writing competition is backed by Malala Yousafzai, campaigner for educational equality and the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Aged 11, Malala wrote for a BBC blog about her experiences of the Taliban’s occupation of her town in Pakistan, speaking out on behalf of girls’ rights to education. Aged 15, Malala survived an assassination attempt on a school bus when a masked gunman shot her in the head in retaliation for her activism. The following year, she founded an educational charity and co-authored her best-selling memoir, I Am Malala.

Malala Yousafzai said:

“Almost one billion girls and young women are missing out on vital education and skills. Writing and storytelling have been essential in my fight to improve educational equality and the rights of girls to learn. Digital skills are becoming more important, and creativity is an essential skill for children to take on to higher education, modern workplaces, and adult life. Historically, there has also been a lack of diversity in published work. It is so important to highlight the voices of those who have previously been underrepresented. 

“Every child has a story to tell.

“The Connected Creatives competition sums up exactly why I became an activist in the first place – young voices really do matter, but too often they’re ignored or silenced.

“Young people should enter to demonstrate the value of their voices, and to benefit from creative and connected experiences at a time when both are under threat by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Connected Creatives was founded by Dr Yasmin Hussain (EdD), an educationalist who won the Queen’s Award – the highest national recognition for UK businesses – earlier this year for her work on the development of ‘Mother Tongue, Other Tongue’ with Professor Carol Ann Duffy DBE.

Dr Hussain has worked with international literacy experts, the National Literacy Trust, and colleagues across the education sector on the development of Connected Creatives.

Dr Hussain, who is also a Faculty Outreach Manager at Manchester Metropolitan University, said:

“Creative writing is not only vital for developing key skills such as literacy, independent thinking, and problem solving, it is also a cathartic outlet that benefits mental health.

“That’s why I set out to build a platform that would break down the barriers to writing that young people face, to give them the opportunity to be creative, express themselves, and showcase their talents. Nearly all content for young people is written by adults, so Connected Creatives is designed to empower pupils to write, publish their work in a safe space, and read and engage with content by their peers. Self-publishing gives a sense of purpose, and develops pride, confidence, and motivation.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has the potential to damage the long-term mental health of millions of secondary school students. On top of the usual stresses of growing up and the increasing pressures of social media, they have been faced with interruptions to education, isolation, a lack of extracurricular activities, and virus-related health fears. With the future of the creative industries under threat, it is hugely important that young people are provided with new ways of expressing themselves, building confidence, connecting with peers, and honing their valuable creative talents.

“We are so excited to have Malala on board for this competition. Not only does she tirelessly campaign for educational rights and believe in the importance of creativity in learning, she is also the perfect example of how storytelling and the voice of one child can create positive change worldwide.

“I can’t wait to read the competition entries, and look forward to showcasing the creativity and talent of young people in secondary schools across the UK.”

The Connected Creatives platform has been designed for flexibility; it can be used for classroom or homework tasks, creative writing clubs, or extracurricular activities. It also enables peer-to-peer assessment by providing the ability for moderated comments on the work of other young people – from classmates to peers at other schools UK-wide. Teachers using the Connected Creatives platform will be able to see how much time pupils are spending on creating and consuming educational content.

Teachers and schools interested in taking part in the competition can register in less than five minutes on the Connected Creatives platform. Pupils can then create their individual accounts, which enables them to draft and publish original pieces of writing, and interact with the work of their peers.

The deadline for submissions is Monday 16th November. Winners of the competition will be selected from a teacher-chosen shortlist via an interactive voting system on the Connected Creatives website. The voting will take place from 1st-15th December, with winners announced on Thursday 17th December.

Full details of the competition can be found on the Connected Creatives website: