A North independent and boarding school is celebrating the success of its head boy whose story has reached the final of the prestigious BBC Radio 2 500 Words Competition. Benjamin French and headmistress Barnard Castle Preparatory School Laura Turner explain the impact the feat has had on the school community
“It all started with a bad cold, an early night and a good dose of medicine. I asked my Mum how my body works and how it fights off the bugs and she explained about the eternal battle of immune system versus infection and how night time is when my body recovers and when the dreaded bug is defeated.
The next morning my Mum said I should think about entering the 500 Words competition, and then it came to me, it was perfect, a battle in my body would be a great plot for a story.
Once I’d got my inspiration, it only took about two days to write and since I had the plot so quickly it was surprisingly easy to complete. It was much harder to cut down to 500 words because I got carried away and ended up with 850 – it took a whole day to cut down!
I’ve always enjoyed being read to ever since I was in a cot and I started writing books in Year 1, bringing them in to school for Show and Tell. I love writing because I’m transported to another world where, in my imagination, anything can happen.
I’ve lost count of how many people have congratulated me; boys, girls, old, young, family, friends, teachers and other parents. It feels really amazing to be inspiring other children to write and hopefully they will enter the competition next year. If my story was chosen from around 140,000 entries anyone’s can. Hmmm? I think I might even write a sequel.
If I was lucky enough to win, it would be great timing as I would get 500 books for the school library, which is being refurbished.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time writing this story and I can’t wait to go to Windsor Castle. It's the day after my birthday and will be the best birthday present ever!”
For headmistress Laura Turner the success is proof once again of the might of the written word.
“Reading is absolutely crucial; it’s the basic building block of education. I’ve read to my two daughters since they were in the womb. It creates a bond between parents and their children, children and their teachers, which is why we have story time at the end of the day.
Reading impacts on writing, on creativity, it stimulates questions, reasoning and thinking. One of the things we are seeking to do with our library is create cosy little pods where children can curl up with a good book and develop a true love of reading – so no pressure Benjamin, but the top prize of 500 books for the school would be timely.
We always encourage pupils to enter the BBC Radio 2 500 Words competition and around 30 did this year. Benjamin’s success is an amazing achievement as one of the few entries from the North of England ever to reach the final. There has been such a buzz around school since we heard that one of our school family is off to Windsor Castle for the final on June 14 and his achievement truly has inspired our pupils for the future.”
Benjamin’s story can be heard at: