Acclaimed author visits Yarmouth schools to boost literacy

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Anthony McGowan, author of books such as Hellbent and Henry Tumour, launched Undercover Readers Project to 350 students at Cliff Park and Ormiston Venture Academies this week. Undercover Readers aims to ignite students’ passion for literature and encourage them to express themselves through creative writing. The project is being run by Take Your Place and aims to entice more students into higher education.

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Mr McGowan says his mission is to make reading fun, exciting, challenging and even “dangerous”. He had the following message for students “to become a good writer first you need to be a reader. The more you read the better your writing will become.”

Part of Undercover Readers is a 500-word competition for young people and Mr McGowan’s masterclass on how to create an exciting short story will help support entries. Students will enter their stories into a regional competition to win places to FLY, the Festival of Literature for Young People being held at the University of East Anglia in July.  

Mr McGowan said of the events: “My events at Cliff Park Ormiston Academy and Oriston Academy were among of the most rewarding and enjoyable I’ve ever done. The young people were lively, engaged, interested and interesting. Their questions were original and thought-provoking. In the creative writing sessions even the students who had declared themselves as reluctant writers (and readers), threw themselves into the exercises, and produced some startlingly good work.  I was particularly impressed at the way they overcame their inhibitions, and ‘performed’ their work to the whole class, which took a lot of guts. I hope many of them go on to develop their interest in writing at college and university.”

Assistant Principal Mr McInally commented “This is such an important opportunity for these students, the joy and understanding of language was really emphasised by Mr McGowan. Whichever pathway these students choose to follow, the value of being able to understand language, visualise scenarios and read between the lines will be key skills to master.”

Seb, aged 14 said “The day was really insightful and it informed me about what it would be like to be a writer”, while Brogan, also aged 14, said “It showed us different genres and it has made me more interested in different kinds of writing.”

For Take Your Place, the project is all about raising aspirations and uncovering hidden talents.

Andrew Underwood Event Organiser and Higher Education Champion said, “There is clear evidence to show that young people who develop a love for reading are more likely to progress to university. This project is a great example of what can happen when schools and universities work together to showcase the many different opportunities on offer to young people when they reach higher education.

“We are engaged in a wide range of activities in schools and colleges across the region, all designed to have a long-term impact on higher education progression. In Great Yarmouth the young person higher education progression rate of just 5% falls way below the national average of 34.2% and this project is one way in which schools and universities are working hard to improve outcomes for young people.”

About Take Your Place and neaco

The Take Your Place programme is delivered by the Network for East Anglian Collaborative Outreach (neaco), which aims to increase the number of young people from underrepresented backgrounds in higher education and degree level apprenticeships by 2020. neaco is a consortium of five universities and eight further education colleges across East Anglia and is one of 29 consortia across England which together form the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP).