Oldham pupil wins festive poetry competition exploring friendship
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10th December 2019

Schools from across the North West have been highlighting the importance of friendship and how to help those who may feel isolated, by taking part in a themed competition judged by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.

Year 7 student, Anika from Oasis Academy in Oldham won first prize in the competition for her poem ‘Friendship’. Her poem highlights the importance of friendship as a valuable gift and was picked from over 300 entries.   She wins a £25 book voucher.  Second and third prizes were awarded to Erin Fairfield from Bedford Hall Methodist in Leigh and Jessica Lee from Birchwood High School.

The poetry competition was organised by the Altrincham-based Teaching School, the Alliance for Learning at Bright Futures Educational Trust (BFET), with primary school and year seven students taking part. Mr Burnham judged the competition alongside Chief Executive of Manchester Mental Health charity 42nd Street, Simone Spray; Simon Blake OBE, Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid England, Professor Dame Alison Peacock, Chief Executive of The Chartered College of Teaching and Diane Modahl, MBE, Co-founder of the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation (DMSF).

As loneliness is more likely to affect young people today than older age groups according to ONS research,* the aim of the competition was to encourage students to evaluate their own relationships, in addition to looking at how friendship may have an impact on their wellbeing. Exploring the theme of friendship has helped them to think about ways to make new friends while also supporting their existing network.

Lisa Fathers, Director of Teaching School at The Alliance for Learning, part of BFET, says: “Friendship is one of the most valuable relationships we have and is a vital element in helping to protect mental health. Christmas can be a particularly lonely time for those that don’t have lots of friends and there are many reasons why people can feel isolated, with an increasing number of younger people feeling this way.

“The quality of entries was once again outstanding, and we are delighted that the competition has inspired many young people to help others.”

Simon Blake, Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid England (MHFA) explained: “It’s inspiring to see how deeply the students considered the impact friendship has when thinking about their own relationships and more widely how it relates to their community and mental health. Anika’s poem does this and more.”

Professor Dame Alison Peacock, Chief Executive of The Chartered College of Teaching, said: “It has been fantastic to see the enthusiasm for this initiative and the high quality of the entries.  The winners really demonstrated a thoughtful understanding of the positive benefits of friendship and the implications when it is lacking. Congratulations to them all.”

Diane Modahl, MBE, athlete and Co-founder of the Diane Modahl Sports Foundation, added: “I’ve really enjoyed getting involved with this competition and have been touched by the poems I have read.  It has got students thinking more closely about friendship and how they can build relationships with others who may have different experiences, as well considering trying new activities together.”

Read the poems here:

1st Prize – Anika

2nd Prize – Erin

3rd Prize – Jessica