A groundbreaking creative writing competition for schools

Competition Closed - Submission Period Ended on 26 April 2024. Find out the winners now!

The winners for the Time to Write competition have been announced, click here to explore the winners, runners up and highly commended stories.

About Time to WriteThe 'Time to Write' competition for 2024 was open to all schools, and used cutting-edge Adaptive Comparative Judgement technology to shortlist entries, allowing schools to take part in the shortlisting process!

Pupils aged 7-16 entered into our exciting tech-led creative writing competition for the chance to win amazing tech and literary prizes.

The top 10 entries in each category were read by a panel of judges, who decided on the winners and runners up.

The winning writers will have their stories turned into illustrated books, and win a set of amazing tech and book prizes. Plus, each winner's school won a great set of prizes, including a £1000 voucher to spend on school resources!

The Categories

Writers in Years 3 and 4: 500 words
Writers in Years 5 and 6: 650 words
Writers in Years 7, 8, and 9: 750 words
Writers in Years 10 and 11: 1000 words

Word counts are advised lengths and final submissions can be +/- 10%

Register your interest for competition updates:

Judging and criteria

The 'Time to Write' competition was judged in two rounds. Entries were shortlisted by a group of judges - and schools could take part in this! The top ten entries shortlisted in each category were read by a panel of esteemed judges.

Round 1: Shortlisting

The first round of judging was completed using Adaptive Comparative Judgement technology via RM Compare. Schools that entered pupils into the competition were able to take part in this process as judges. We looked for the most creative entries in the first round of judging.

Who could take part in the shortlisting process?

All schools that entered pupils into the competition were able to take part in the shortlisting process during the first judging window.

Round 2: Final judging

The top ten entries in each category were read and reviewed by a panel of judges in the traditional way.

The judging panel

Ali SparksChildren's AuthorThe Shapeshifter Series
Anna CamilleriHead of EnglishEton College
Naomi AnsonHead of EnglishSt Swithun's
Dr Ellen SpencerSenior Researcher at the Centre for Real World LearningThe University of Winchester
Emma DrageSenior Commissioning Editor for children's booksOxford University Press
Sarah StrachanActing Head of English for Middle SchoolSt Catherine's, Bramley

Judging criteria

The panel of judges reviewed the top ten entries with the following criteria in mind:Idea: is there an original and creative idea that makes the story stand out?Structure: is there a clear plot that develops thematically?Character: are the characters well-developed and convincing?Language: are words chosen and language devices used confidently and creatively?

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The Time to Write competition was open to all schools, with four categories for different age groups, and prizes for both the winning writers and their schools.The top ten entries shortlisted in each category were read by a panel of esteemed judges.The winning writers in each category will see themselves in print, as each will have their story turned into an illustrated book!Prizes were also awarded to the winning writers’ schools, including £1000 to spend on school resources!A range of other exciting prizes were on offer for the winners and runners-up, including Amazon Fire tablets, Altec Lansing Bluetooth speakers and headphones, and vouchers.

Register your interest for competition updates:

About the competition

The Independent Schools Examinations Board is a leading provider of innovative qualifications and assessments to schools in the UK and internationally. Founded in 1903 to create and deliver the Common Entrance exams, ISEB has been at the forefront of assessment at 11+ and 13+ for 120 years.

We partnered with RM Compare to bring schools a unique, interactive creative writing competition for 2024. The time travel theme of the 'Time to Write' competition was chosen to align with ISEB's 120th anniversary. By appreciating the achievements and events of the past, and looking forward to the developments of new innovations and technologies, we can all make sure we are supporting all children to achieve for years to come.

“In celebrating 120 years at the heart of assessment in the independent school sector, we wanted to bring all schools an exciting opportunity to celebrate our core principles of creativity, inclusivity, innovation, and heritage in an interactive and hands-on way. Creative writing is the ultimate creative activity for young people, allowing them to dream big and show us their flair and individuality. We can’t wait to read their stories.” Julia Martin, ISEB

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Competition Closed - Submission Period Ended on 26 April 2024. announcements were made on 11 June 2024.

All entries must be submitted by schools. If you are a parent or guardian, please ask your child's school to enter your child into the competition. Schools can submit all entries from pupils together via an online entry form.

Time to Write is open to all residents aged 7-16 years as of 26 April 2024. Stories must be written by an individual and not by a pair, or writing team. Writers may only submit one story each. Entries must be a piece of original fiction and can not depict events that actually took place. Entries can not use details of any living person and must not include personal details about the writer and their family, teachers, or friends.

All entries must be submitted by a school - if you are a parent, please talk to your child's school about submitting your child's entry.Entries must be saved as PDF files, and the file name should be structured as 'Story name, school name'. The writer's name should not be included anywhere on the PDF. Entries can be hand-written or typed, but must not contain any additional embellishments such as drawings or diagrams. All entries must be in English.For full information please see our Terms and Conditions.How to enter1. Read the competition terms and conditions.2. Download the ISEB Time to Write - Pupil Entry Submission Upload spreadsheet.3. Populate the spreadsheet with details for all pupils you are entering and once finished, save as a .CSV (comma delimited) file.4. Save all entries as PDF files and ensure all files are named correctly ('Story name, school name'). Do not include the pupil’s name anywhere on entries, either in the file name or on the PDF. Entries can be typed or hand-written (as long as they are fully legible).5. Save all PDF entries to a .ZIP file.6. Visit the online entry form on the ISEB website.7. Complete the online entry form, uploading your completed pupil entry submission .CSV file, and your .ZIP file of PDFs.If you have any questions please get in touch with ISEB via our support portal.

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Thank you to our sponsors

The prizes in our 'Time to Write' creative writing competition were proudly sponsored by a range of tech and literary organisations.

Altec Lansing is an American audio brand, formed in 1941. With roots in studio and live music audio products, today Altec Lansing is a leader in consumer audio products designed to be the life of the party, including Bluetooth speakers, ANC headphones, and party speakers.

Oxford University Press (OUP), founded over 500 years ago as the publishing arm of the University of Oxford, remains an emblem of scholarly excellence. Specialising in the publication of top-tier academic and educational resources, OUP's diverse catalogue spans disciplines, languages, and cultures.

Scanning Pens, founded in 2003, is a leading provider of assistive reading technology for the neurodivergent community. Their award-winning C-Pen series has revolutionised dyslexia reading aids, elevating accessibility to new heights. With a mission to change lives globally, Scanning Pens remains at the forefront of innovation in assistive technology.

Ingram Micro, a global technology leader, facilitates access to cutting-edge solutions for nearly 90% of the world's population. Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services, Inc. (AWS), a subsidiary of Amazon, revolutionises cloud computing with on-demand platforms and APIs.

TTS Group stands as the leading UK provider of early years, primary, secondary, and special needs supplies and furniture. Offering exceptional early years supplies, TTS Group presents a brilliant and innovative range designed to inspire and engage educators and learners alike.

the theme

The 2024 'Time to Write' creative writing competition was all about celebrating the past and looking forward to the future. The theme was...

A time machine is found hidden in a cave. Inside, there is a clock with two options: the first, to travel in time 120 years into the past, and the second, to travel in time 120 years into the future.Who finds it, and what happens next?

We looked for the most creative story in the first round of judging. Find out more about the judging process and criteria.

Visit the resource hub for support articles and information designed to to spark inspiration and support your pupils to produce their stories. Explore our collection of resources.


Please read our terms and conditions to find out everything you need to know about how the Time to Write competition will work, and how to enter.

1. The PromoterThe Promoter is: ISEB Limited of Endeavour House, Crow Arch Lane, Ringwood, BH24 1HP, UK.2. The competitionThe title of the competition is ISEB Time to Write. It is a creative writing competition for school pupils aged 7-16.3. How to enter3.1 The competition will run from 00:00 on 15 February 2024 (the "Opening Date") to 23:59 on 26 April 2024 (the "Closing Date") inclusive.3.2 All competition entries must be received by the Promoter by the Closing Date. All competition entries received after the Closing Date will not be entered into the competition.3.3 To enter the competition: All entries must be submitted using the online entry form on the ISEB website. All entries must be submitted by a school. Visit write.iseb.co.uk and follow the instructions to find the online entry form.3.4 Schools entering pupils must first complete the ‘Time to Write Pupil Entry spreadsheet supplied as an .Excel file. This can be downloaded from the website and is located above the online entry form.3.5 Schools will also need to save all writing submissions as PDF files and format the file name as: Title of submission, school name. The pupil’s name should not be included anywhere on the PDF submission.3.6 These files will need to be uploaded via the online entry form. Entries can be typed as saved as PDF files, or they may be hand-written and saved as PDF files. If entries are submitted in hand-written format, they must be fully legible, and should only contain hand-written words as part of the story. If typed, they should be typed in any font, in 12pt size, and in black.3.7 No entries may contain additional content such as drawings or diagrams. Entries containing additional content other than the typed or hand-written words of the story will not be accepted.3.8 Entries must be written in English. Entries must not exceed the word count defined for each category.3.9 No purchase is necessary.3.10 The Promoter will not accept responsibility for competition entries that are lost, mislaid, damaged or delayed in transit, regardless of cause, including, for example, as a result of any equipment failure, technical malfunction, systems, satellite, network, server, computer hardware or software failure of any kind.3.11 By submitting a competition entry, you are agreeing to be bound by these terms and conditions.3.12 For help with entries, please submit a ticket at support.iseb.co.uk.4. Eligibility4.1 The competition is only open to all residents worldwide aged 7-16 years, except:
(a) employees of the Promoter or its holding or subsidiary companies;
(b) employees of agents or suppliers of the Promoter or its holding or subsidiary companies, who are professionally connected with the competition or its administration; or
(c) members of the immediate families or households of (a) and (b) above.
4.2 In entering the competition, you confirm that you are eligible to do so and the Promoter may require you to provide proof that you are eligible to enter the competition.
4.3 The Promoter will not accept competition entries that are:
(a) automatically generated by computer or created by artificial intelligence (including but not limited to chatbots such as ChatGPT or similar software applications);
(b) completed by third parties or in bulk;
(c) illegible, have been altered, reconstructed, forged or tampered with;
(d) photocopies and not originals; or
(e) incomplete.
4.4 We are sorry but competition entries cannot be returned.4.5 The story submitted must be written by an individual and not by a writing pair or team.4.6 Writers may only submit one story. If more than one story is submitted, only the first story received will be accepted.4.7 The use of generative AI tools to create any part of an entry is not permitted and will lead to disqualification.4.8 The story must be a piece of original fiction - stories can reference historical figures and eras but can not depict events that actually took place and can not use details of any living person. Stories must not include any personal details about the writer and/or their families/friends/teachers/schools.4.9 Stories must be unpublished.5. The prizes5.1 The prizes for each winner of a category are:
(a) The story submitted will be turned into an illustrated and bound book.
(b) A Bluetooth speaker and set of Bluetooth headphones from Altec Lansing, models as defined by the Promoter on write.iseb.co.uk
(c) An Amazon Fire Tablet, model as defined by the Promoter on write.iseb.co.uk
(d) A National Book Tokens voucher to the amount defined by the Promoter on write.iseb.co.uk
(e) An Audible voucher to the amount defined by the Promoter on write.iseb.co.uk.
5.2 The prizes for the two runners-up of a category are:
(a) A Bluetooth speaker and set of Bluetooth headphones from Altec Lansing, models as defined by the Promoter on write.iseb.co.uk
(b) An Audible voucher to the amount defined by the Promoter on write.iseb.co.uk.
5.3 The prizes for the school each winner attends/was entered by are:
(a) A selection of fiction and non-fiction books as defined by the Promoter on write.iseb.co.uk
(b) A portable pen scanner as defined by the Promoter on write.iseb.co.uk
(c) A £1000 voucher (including VAT) to spend with the TTS Group as defined by the Promoter on write.iseb.co.uk.
5.4 All prizes are non-negotiable, no compensation is payable for competition entries or winners and there are no cash alternatives for the prizes.6. Judging6.1 The competition entries will be shortlisted to a shortlist of ten entries per category by a pool of judges using the RM Compare platform. Shortlisting will be completed using the following holistic statement: Which entry is the most creative?6.2 The top ten entries in each category will be judged by a panel of four judges. The decision of the panel of judges (acting reasonably) will be final.6.3 The top ten entries in each category will be judged on the following criteria:
Idea: is there an original and creative idea that makes the story stand out?
Structure: is there a clear plot that develops thematically?
Character: are the characters well-developed and convincing?
Language: are words chosen and language devices used confidently and creatively?
7. Winners7.1 The decision of the Promoter is final and no correspondence or discussion will be entered into. The Promoter can not offer feedback on entries.7.2 The Promoter will contact the school each winner and runner-up was entered by personally as soon as practicable after the Announcement Date, using the telephone number or email address provided with the competition entry. The Promoter will not amend any contact information once the competition entry form has been submitted.7.3 The Promoter must either publish or make available information that indicates that a valid award took place. To comply with this obligation the Promoter will publish the names of the winners and runners-up, the titles of their writing submissions, and the schools of the winning writers on the ISEB website in June 2024.7.4 If a school or pupil objects to any or all of their name, country and winning entry being published or made available, please contact the Promoter at the address set out at condition three. In such circumstances, the Promoter must still provide the information and winning entry to the Advertising Standards Authority on request.8. Claiming the prize8.1 The Promoter will make all reasonable efforts to contact the winner. If the winner cannot be contacted or is not available, or has not responded within 7 of days of the Announcement Date, the Promoter reserves the right to offer the prize to the next eligible entrant selected from the correct entries that were received before the Closing Date.8.2 The Promoter does not accept any responsibility if you are not able to take up the prize.9. Limitation of liabilityInsofar as is permitted by law, the Promoter, its agents or distributors will not in any circumstances be responsible or liable to compensate the winner or accept any liability for any loss, damage, personal injury or death occurring as a result of taking up the prize except where it is caused by the negligence of the Promoter, its agents or distributors or that of their employees. Your statutory rights are not affected.10. Ownership of competition entries and intellectual property rights10.1 All competition entries and any accompanying material submitted to the Promoter will become the property of the Promoter on receipt and will not be returned.10.2 By submitting a competition entry and any accompanying material, pupils are:
(a) assigning to the Promoter all ownership rights with full title guarantee; and
(b) waiving all moral rights,
in and to your competition entry and otherwise arising in connection with your entry to which you may now or at any time in the future be entitled under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 as amended from time to time and under all similar legislation from time to time in force anywhere in the world.
10.3 Without limitation on condition 10.2, the Promoter intends, but is in no way obliged to:(a) publish the competition entry in local, regional, or national press outlets, both print and digital;
(b) display the competition entry on the ISEB website or social media platforms; and/or
(c) use the competition entry in any promotional materials related to the competition, including posters, flyers, and online advertisements.
10.4 You agree that the Promoter may, but is not required to, make your entry available on its website iseb.co.uk and any other media, whether now known or invented in the future, and in connection with any publicity of the competition.11. Data protection and publicity11.1 The Promoter will only process your personal information as set out in the Promoter's Privacy Policy, which is available on the iseb.co.uk website.11.2 The Promoter will collect the following personal data from the school representative submitting entries.
(a) Your first name and surname
(b) Your school’s name and location
(c) Your email address and phone number
(d) Your job title
This information will be used by the Promoter to administer the competition, obtain the relevant permissions if required, communicate with the school on matters relating to the competition, and, if an entry submitted by your school is shortlisted or wins a prize, this information may be used as part of promotion on the Promoter’s website and other marketing channels.11.3 The Promoter will collect the following personal data on pupils aged 7-16 being entered into the competition from the school submitting the entries:
(a) Entrant’s first name and surname
(b) Entrant’s age and date of birth
(c) Entrant’s school name
(d) Entrant’s school type
(e) Entrant’s school year
(f) Entrant’s gender
(g) Entrant’s submission title
This information will be used by the Promoter to administer the competition, and if an entry is shortlisted or wins a prize, some of this information may be used as part of promotion on the Promoter’s website and other marketing channels. The safety of all pupils is paramount to the Promoter and we will not publish more personal information than necessary.11.4 Schools are to request permission from your parent/guardian in order to grant The Promoter the rights to become the 'data controller'. RM Compare will be the 'data processor'.11.5 The Promoter is the ‘data controller’ of your personal data. This means the Promoter will decide what your personal data is used for, however, the Promoter will only collect and process your data in accordance with the purposes in these terms and conditions. The Promoter will comply with data protection law as the data controller.12. General12.1 If there is any reason to believe that there has been a breach of these terms and conditions, the Promoter may, at its sole discretion, reserve the right to exclude you from participating in the competition.12.2 The Promoter reserves the right to hold void, suspend, cancel, or amend the prize competition where it becomes necessary to do so.12.3 These terms and conditions are governed by English law. If any entrants to this promotion wish to take court proceedings, then they must do this within the courts in the United Kingdom.


Here you'll find a range of support resources for schools, young writers, and parents and guardians. We'll be adding more resources here over the coming weeks so keep checking back to see what's new!

Why should schools enter?

The benefits of creative writing go beyond essential core English skills. Not only does it support creative thinking and the development of imagination (as you might expect!), but other skills too: looking at things from a fresh perspective, expressing feelings and emotions, thinking about structure and choosing your words carefully; all skills that support development in every subject and in the wider world.A benchmark of pupil performanceAll schools that enter will receive a data report that shows how their pupils have performed alongside other pupils in the competition, as well as information about the types of themes and trends that have emerged.Hands-on experience with Adaptive Comparative Judgement technologyThe shortlisting process will be done via the RM Compare platform, using cutting-edge Adaptive Comparative Judgement technology. All schools that enter will be given the opportunity to take part as a judge in the shortlisting process and see for themselves how it works.Be a part of wider research on creative writing in schoolsThe information gathered through the competition will help shape the way creative writing skills are developed and assessed in the future.

The St Swithun’s Witch Project: finding new ways to decolonise and diversify our literature teaching

A blog article by naomi anson, competition judge and head of swithun's school

An introduction to the article from ISEB CEO, Julia Martin:"This inspiring project by Naomi Anson grabbed me when I first heard about it. Decolonising and diversifying our curricula is crucial and it’s fantastic to see St Swithun's School leading the way. This impact of this project went beyond teaching, it was performative, critical and truly interdisciplinary too. At ISEB, our creative writing competition Time to Write is a starting point for thinking about teaching creatively across boundaries and as one of our judges, Naomi Anson will be an inspiring force for championing new ways of being creative in our schools."Read the article by Naomi Anson on the HMC website:

Interview with the author

with Ali Sparkes, competition judge, and children's author of the popular Shapeshifter series

Hi Ali! Did you always aspire to become an author?
What first sparked your interest in writing stories?
I was a pretty slow reader to begin with; a bit of a struggler. But around about the age of eight I started reading Famous Five books which kicked off my enthusiasm at last. From there I went on to other authors, like Joan Aiken, Anthony Buckeridge, Norman Hunter, Jean Craighead George and many more.I was very much the kid at school who was in the corner of the playground, opening up a book like a trapdoor and disappearing into another world.It didn't hurt that books were part of family life and our parents read to us.But did I aspire to be an author? Nah. I was obsessed with the theatre. For literally as far back as I can remember I wanted to be a singer and an actress. I was in school shows, quite often the lead, and then bigger shows, including a couple of stints as a lead in musicals at The Mayflower (or The Gaumont) as it was back then. Did a little local telly, too. So I was pretty good at the whole acting and singing thing (if not the dancing!) - but always used to write for fun; comedy scripts with my siblings and friends, daft poems, even full on action adventures (a four part series at secondary school!).I never really thought about a career as a writer, but the hallmarks were there throughout my teens; I even wrote a comedy musical for my cohort at college, which we staged as the final part of our Theatre Studies A level. Writing was just a very natural, fun thing to do. I didn't pay it very much attention; I just did it.How do you come up with ideas for your stories?
Is there a special place or activity that helps you find inspiration?
Ideas arrive at any time, from any direction; something someone says. an interesting location, a what if..?  thought. Dark Summer was inspired by the caves at Wookey Hole, Thunderstruck was inspired by a gravestone in a cemetery just off Southampton Common, 100 Summers was partly inspired by my sons, who both have ADHD. I've never had much problem coming up with ideas; they seem like jets, circling Heathrow, waiting to land. My biggest problem is finding enough time to write them all.But getting out walking (with Willow, the labradoodle) or running definitely helps me to un-knot any plot problems I'm having, or to cook up a new idea when I've been asked to come up with something. The best ideas usually occur nowhere near the keyboard.What does your process of writing a story from start to finish look like?The idea occurs and then, if it's a goer, tends to hang around in my head, getting a bit more evolved. Characters show up. Their problems and their wants and needs slowly get more apparent. Once I have a nice idea beginning to flesh out I will pitch it to my editor or agent and if they like it, I'll work up a synopsis and a few chapters. If it meets with approval I will write the whole thing. Between pitching the idea and getting it published usually takes about 18 months, although it can be much faster for shorter books, such as the titles I write for educational publishers like Oxford Reading Tree and Collin's Big Cat.There's a fair bit of to-ing and fro-ing between me and my editors to get the story as good as it can be, but I rarely write more than three drafts. Working as a journalist in newspapers and then BBC radio has trained me to write and edit quite tightly as I go.Can you tell us about any specific challenges or setbacks in your writing journey?
How did you overcome them?
I had sooooo many rejections, across a period of about four years. They were maddening because so often I would get a great response from an editor or an agent, full of compliments, but still not quite wanting to take me on. But I think my theatrical experiences helped because, even as a child performer, you get used to rejection and learn to handle it. Sending a manuscript is an audition, except you're not there in front of them when they decide whether or not you're hired. I learned to read the rejection letter, sigh, and then send the manuscript off to the next one on my list that same day.Rejection can come at any point in your writing career - I'm in no way immune to it. I find having lots of different ideas out there really helps, because if one thing falls through there are still others keeping your spirits up.What's the coolest thing about being a children's author?
Do you get to do any fun research for your books?
I love coming up with an idea and then getting the chance to share it with readers all over the world. I also love the research; the coolest was probably getting to mooch about behind the scenes at the caves in Wookey Hole, where the tourists don't usually get to go - and interviewing a cave diver to find out all about cave rescues. It was also really fun to hang out for a while with Mark King, lead singer and legendary bassist in hit 1980s band Level 42, as part of my research for Destination Earth.If you could give one piece of advice to kids who dream of becoming authors, what would that advice be?Read. Read. And read some more. And then write. Write. And write some more. It's not complicated. If you want to be a writer you have to study the form (reading!) and then practise (writing!) until you get better at it. Entering competitions is also useful because, whether or not you win them, you're training yourself to finish work, polish it, send it, and then deal with the feedback; something every writer has to do throughout their career.You do have to be brave about sharing your work with others and that's not easy for everyone - but it's part and parcel of the whole writer thing.  Write with friends. Have a blast! Play with words. Don't be afraid to put your stories out there.

Understanding the Time to Write competition terms and conditions

A breakdown for parents and guardians

As the parent or guardian of a young person submitting an entry to the Time to Write competition, you will need to agree to some terms and conditions via your child's school.We recommend that you read these in full, but here is a breakdown of the main things you need to know and agree to. Your child’s school will collect your permission and share this with ISEB, so please liaise with your child’s school about this. If you need any help from ISEB, you can submit an enquiry through our customer support portal.Assigning ownership to ISEBWhen your child writes a story, they are the owner of their piece of work. When they enter the competition, they will need to assign these ownership rights to ISEB. ISEB will then upload the piece of work into the RM Compare platform so that it can be processed as part of the shortlisting process, which will use RM’s cutting-edge Adaptive Comparative Judgement technology to find the top ten entries in each category. By shortlisting in this way, a large group of judges can take part, ensuring a totally fair, transparent, and reliable process. This is what your child’s school will ask you to agree to.What else will ISEB do with these ownership rights?If your child is a winner or runner up in the Time to Write competition, ISEB may publish your child’s entry on our website and social media platforms and any other ISEB-owned platforms. We may also publish your child’s story in third-party press outlets. We will always let parents and guardians know where these stories have been published. We may also use your child’s story in promotional materials for either the Time to Write competition or future ISEB products. By agreeing to the terms and conditions via your child’s school you are giving your permission for us to do these things.If your child wins their category, their story will be turned into an illustrated and bound book. We’ll provide a limited number of printed copies to you and your child’s school. To be able to turn your child’s story into a book, we also need ownership transferred to us.What about data relating to your child?ISEB will need to collect a set of personal data about your child to administer the competition. This includes your child’s name, date of birth, school name, school type, school year, their gender, and the title of their entry. If your child is a winner or runner up, ISEB may use some of this personal data in promoting the results of the competition. We will put pupil safety first and we will not publish more personal information than necessary. By agreeing to the terms and conditions, you are allowing ISEB to become the ‘data controller’ of your child’s personal information and piece of work submitted.What about RM Compare?Once you have assigned ownership of your child’s piece of work to ISEB, ISEB will grant RM Compare the rights to become the data processor. This gives RM Compare the levels of permission required to run the shortlisting process. As the ‘data controller’ ISEB will decide what your child’s data is used for and will comply with data protection law (in England).

Getting started with writing a story - 10 things to think about

Are you ready to embark on an exciting adventure of imagination and creativity? Writing a story is like painting a picture with words, and the best part is that you get to be the artist of your own tale. Here are some things to think about as you get started on your storytelling journey:1. Imagine your world: Close your eyes and let your imagination soar! What kind of world do you want your story to be in? Is it a land of talking animals, a futuristic city, or a mysterious enchanted forest? Picture it vividly in your mind – the colours, sounds, and even the smells. This is the beginning of your magical creation.2. Meet your characters: Who will be the heroes of your story? Create characters with personalities as unique as yours. Think about their strengths, weaknesses, and what makes them special. Are they brave adventurers, mischievous fairies, or curious explorers? Your characters are the heart of your story, so make them unforgettable!3. What's the big idea? Every great story has a big idea, or what we call a plot. It's like the roadmap that guides your characters through exciting adventures and challenges. What amazing quest will your characters go on? Maybe they're searching for hidden treasure, solving a mystery, or saving their magical world. Your big idea is the magic that keeps readers turning the pages.4. Start with a bang: Begin your story with a burst of excitement! It could be a funny joke, a mysterious riddle, or your characters finding a magical object (like a time machine!). The beginning is your chance to grab your reader's attention and invite them into your enchanting world.5. Use your senses: Make your story come alive by using your senses. Describe what your characters see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. If they're in a candy kingdom, how does the air smell? What do the rainbow-colored candies taste like? Engaging the senses helps your readers feel like they're right there in your magical world.6. Add dialogue magic: Let your characters talk and share their feelings. Dialogue is like the magic spell that brings your characters to life. Use quotation marks around what they say and show how they react to different situations. Maybe they laugh, cry, or even do a happy dance!7. Build suspense: Keep your readers on the edge of their seats by adding suspense. Will your characters solve the mystery? What's behind the hidden door in the enchanted forest? Building suspense makes your story even more thrilling and exciting.8. End with a bang, too: Just like the beginning, your story's ending should be spectacular! It could be a surprising twist, a heart-warming reunion, or a celebration. Make your readers feel satisfied and happy after going on this magical journey with your characters.9. Share your magic: Once your story is complete, share it with others! Whether it's your friends, family, or even your pet, sharing your magical tale is a wonderful way to spread joy. You're the author, and your words have the power to enchant everyone who reads them.10. Have fun! Most importantly, have fun with your storytelling adventure. Writing a story is your chance to let your imagination run wild and create something truly magical.So grab your pen, pencil, or computer, let the words flow, and enjoy every moment of your enchanting journey into the world of storytelling.



It can be daunting to be faced with a blank piece of paper, and even the best writers can feel stuck at times. Here are some top tips to help you get writing!Free writingGive yourself the challenge of writing for ten minutes without stopping. This is sometimes called free writing. Set a timer and write whatever comes into your head. Try to keep your hand moving the whole time and don’t cross anything out. You don’t need to share this work with anyone – it’s not going to be your final piece of writing, but you might find that some interesting ideas emerge that you can use as a starting point for your story. Free writing can help to increase the flow of ideas. It can also help to stop you overthinking and ruling out ideas before you’ve given them a chance!Create some writing promptsWrite a list of five characters on separate slips of paper or pieces of card and put them face down on a table. Then create a list of five different locations on slips of paper or card and lay them out upside down on the table too. Pick out one character and one location at random. Use whatever combination you pick out as a starting point for a story. It’s a great way to come up with unusual combinations, for examples robots in a castle or dinosaurs in a cinema.Take inspiration from your favourite storiesMake a list of some of your favourite stories. Think about what it is that you enjoy most about them. For example, if you love reading books about aliens, perhaps you could try writing your own alien story. If you’re writing something you’d love to read yourself, you are going to feel more motivated to start – and finish – it.Imagine untold storiesAn interesting starting point can be to retell an existing story from a different character’s point of view – or even from the perspective of an inanimate object. Myths, legends, and fairytales can be great sources of inspiration. For example, what if you retold Cinderella from the point of view of the stepmother, or Jack and the Beanstalk from the point of view of the bean? It’s very important never to simply copy existing texts, but lots of great writers have enjoyed great success reimagining or reinterpreting well-known tales from different perspectives.Carry a notebook with youIf you’re still struggling to get started or are feeling like you’ve reached a dead end with your story, a change of scene can help. Try going for a walk or doing another activity, keeping a notebook with you. Jot down any ideas that come to you. You could try carrying a notebook with you throughout the day – you might be surprised when inspiration strikes! Some writers also like to keep a notebook by their bed to jot down their dreams when they wake up in the morning to use as inspiration.Remember, starting is often the hardest part and everyone struggles with it from time to time! Try not to put too much pressure on yourself, pick a topic you enjoy, and have fun!

10 ways to cultivate a love of storytelling in your child

Encouraging children to explore the enchanting world of storytelling can be a delightful journey for both parents and children. Cultivating a love for writing not only enhances language skills but also nurtures creativity and self-expression. Here are some magical ways for parents and guardians to spark their children's interest in writing stories:1. Create a writing wonderland: Designate a cozy writing corner at home. Make it a special place where your child can escape into the world of imagination. The allure of a dedicated writing space can turn the act of writing into a magical adventure.2. Be a storytelling role model: Share your own stories or even create tales together. When children see their parents engaging in storytelling, it ignites their curiosity and provides a model for expressing thoughts through words. It can be a collaborative experience, with each family member contributing to the unfolding narrative.3. Start with short and sweet: Begin with short writing activities that are both manageable and fun. Encourage your child to write a brief description of their day, compose a silly poem, or invent a dialogue between fictional characters. Short and sweet exercises help build confidence and lay the foundation for more elaborate storytelling adventures.4. Turn everyday events into stories: Transform routine activities into story prompts. You could ask your child to narrate their trip to the supermarket, turning it into a whimsical adventure with talking fruits and mischievous shopping carts. This helps them see storytelling opportunities in everyday life, making writing a natural and enjoyable activity.5. Embrace diverse writing tools: Explore various writing tools to make the process more engaging. From traditional pencils and papers to colourful markers, or even a kid-friendly writing app on a tablet, the choice of tools can add an extra layer of excitement to the writing experience.6. Inspire with book adventures: Take regular trips to the library or bookshop and let your child explore different genres and styles of books. Share captivating stories that align with their interests, whether it's adventures, mysteries, or tales of magical lands. A love for reading often blossoms into a desire to create stories of their own.7. Celebrate storytelling traditions: Share family stories and traditions with your child. Whether it's tales from your own childhood, stories passed down through generations, or even cultural folklore, storytelling traditions connect children to their roots and inspire them to create their own narratives.8. Organise writing challenges: Turn writing into a playful challenge. Set weekly themes or prompts and encourage your child to create short stories around them. It could be anything from 'space adventures' to 'talking animal tales.' This adds an element of excitement and creativity to their writing routine.9. Create a story journal: Provide your child with a special journal where they can jot down story ideas, doodle characters, or even draft short paragraphs. A story journal serves as a personal space for their thoughts to flourish and can become a treasure trove of inspiration for future writing endeavours.10. Foster a positive writing environment: Cultivate a positive attitude towards writing. Offer praise for their efforts, celebrate their unique ideas, and create an environment where mistakes are seen as stepping stones to improvement. A nurturing atmosphere boosts confidence and makes writing a joyful exploration.Remember, the key to getting children interested in writing stories is to make it a delightful and imaginative experience. By weaving storytelling into the fabric of everyday life, parents can nurture the budding authors within their children, fostering a lifelong love for the magic of words and storytelling.Check out our Time to Write competition - if your child would like to write a creative time travel story, talk to your school about entering.

Five time travel writers for children

Time travel is a captivating theme in children's literature, transporting young readers to different eras and adventures. There are several notable authors who have created time-traveling narratives that have engaged and inspired the imaginations of countless children. Here are five time travel writers for children that you can discuss in the classroom:1. Mary Pope Osborne: Renowned for her 'Magic Tree House' series, Mary Pope Osborne has taken young readers on thrilling time-traveling adventures since 1992. The series follows siblings Jack and Annie as they discover a magical treehouse that allows them to travel through time and space. Each book introduces historical events and figures, making learning an integral part of the enchanting tales. Osborne's storytelling has made history accessible and exciting for generations of young readers.2. Madeleine L'Engle: Madeleine L'Engle's classic 'A Wrinkle in Time' is a timeless work that blends science fiction and fantasy. While not strictly about time travel in the conventional sense, the novel explores the concept of 'tessering,' a form of space-time travel that takes the protagonist, Meg Murry, and her friends to otherworldly realms. L'Engle's imaginative narrative, rich characters, and exploration of cosmic concepts have made 'A Wrinkle in Time' a beloved and influential work in children's literature.3. Eoin Colfer: Eoin Colfer, known for his Artemis Fowl series, also delved into time travel with 'W.A.R.P.' (Witness Anonymous Relocation Program). The series combines science fiction, historical elements, and fast-paced adventure as young FBI agent Chevie Savano time-travels to Victorian London. Colfer's witty writing and engaging characters make the W.A.R.P. series an entertaining and thought-provoking experience for young readers interested in time travel.4. Judy Blume: While Judy Blume is widely recognized for her contemporary and realistic fiction, she ventured into time travel with the book 'Here's to You, Rachel Robinson.' In this novel, the protagonist, Rachel, has an encounter with a mysterious old woman that propels her back in time to experience life in the 1960s. Blume's exploration of time travel adds an intriguing layer to her body of work, allowing readers to consider the impact of different eras on the lives of young people.5. H.G. Wells (Retold by Stephanie Baudet): H.G. Wells' classic science fiction novel 'The Time Machine' has been retold for children by Stephanie Baudet in a series titled 'Classic Science Fiction for Kids.' Baudet maintains the essence of Wells' original narrative while adapting it for younger readers. 'The Time Machine' introduces children to the concept of time travel through the adventures of the Time Traveller in a captivating and accessible format. Baudet's retelling allows young readers to explore Wells' timeless masterpiece.These five authors have made significant contributions to children's literature by incorporating time travel into their narratives. From magical treehouses to mysterious wrinkle-filled dimensions, their stories not only entertain but also stimulate curiosity and imagination. Time travel continues to be a compelling theme that opens doors to exploration, discovery, and understanding for young readers across generations.Why not explore some of these authors with your pupils, and see if their stories spark creative ideas for the Time to Write competition!

How can Scanning pens reader 2 support creative writing?

Five tips on using your Reader 2 from Time to Write competition sponsor, Scanning Pens Ltd.Start with inspirational readingUse your C-Pen to explore a piece of writing from an author that you admire. By using append mode, you can scan as much text as you wish. You can toggle the blue highlighter around the screen and follow as you play back the scanned words. Hold the centre button down to enlarge new words and listen again. You can play back the word, a sentence or the whole paragraph as many times as you wish. Immerse yourself in the inspirational writing that you chose.Analyse the punctuationNow, let's look at the construction of the sentences that you have scanned. You can explore how punctuation creates clarity or impact. The pen has a punctuation pause to help you to see it and understand its purpose.Decoding new vocabularyDid you find new words that you like the sound of? Use the dictionary function to find a quick definition of a new word. Finding word definitions quickly will give you more thinking time. Why not try using these words in your own creative writing!Listening for devicesThrough your headphones, tune in to patterns in your inspirational reading piece, listen and look for devices like alliteration, rhythm and rhyme. Did you find a repeating element or motif? Could you use these or other devices that you have found in your writing?Find your word bankAll the words that you enlarged and looked up can be found in a word bank called practice mode. You can also find the words you looked up in the dictionary history. You have a ready-made word list to use in your creative writing.Now, it's Time to Write! When you are feeling inspired, you are ready to start writing.

Time to Write is kindly sponsored by

A glossary of creative writing terms for your class

Plot: The sequence of events that make up a story, including the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.Characterisation: The process of creating and developing characters in a story, including their traits, motivations, and behaviours.Setting: The time and place in which a story takes place, including the physical environment and historical context.Theme: The central idea or message of a story, often exploring universal truths or human experiences.Point of View (POV): The perspective from which a story is told, such as first-person, second-person, or third-person.Dialogue: The conversation between characters in a story, used to reveal their personalities, advance the plot, and provide exposition.Conflict: A problem or challenge that drives the plot forward, often involving a struggle between opposing forces.Foreshadowing: Hints or clues about future events in a story, used to create suspense or build anticipation.Symbolism: The use of symbols or objects to represent deeper meanings or themes within a story.Imagery: Vivid descriptions that appeal to the senses, helping to create a mental picture for the reader.Metaphor: A figure of speech that makes a comparison between two unlike things, often highlighting similarities in a creative or imaginative way.Simile: A figure of speech that compares two unlike things using 'like' or 'as,' often for descriptive or expressive purposes.Irony: A literary device in which there is a discrepancy between what is expected to happen and what actually occurs, often for humorous or dramatic effect.Tone: The author's attitude or emotional perspective toward the subject matter or audience of a story, conveyed through language and style.Style: The distinctive manner in which a writer uses language, including word choice, sentence structure, and tone, to convey meaning and create an artistic effect.Flashback: A narrative technique that interrupts the chronological sequence of events to depict an earlier scene or event.Fiction: Literary works that are imagined or invented, as opposed to factual or non-fictional writing.Non-Fiction: Literary works that are based on facts, real events, and real people, as opposed to imagined or invented stories.Protagonist: The main character or central figure in a story, often the one who drives the plot forward and undergoes significant development.Antagonist: The character or force that opposes the protagonist, creating conflict and obstacles for them to overcome.We hope these terms are useful as your class dreams up their creative stories for the Time to Write competition.


By Dr Ellen Spencer, competition judge, and Senior Researcher at the Centre for Real World Learning at the University of Winchester

Taking part in a creative writing competition is an exciting adventure that invites you to stretch your imagination, challenge yourself, and grow your creative thinking habits. Creativity isn't about waiting for inspiration or making things out of thin air. Anyone can be creative, because it involves using thinking habits that are useful whenever you need to think creatively. A story built on the creative habits of being inquisitive, imaginative, persistent, disciplined, and collaborative is like a castle constructed brick by brick with your ideas and effort.While good writing can seem like a magic art, creativity is a process you can use in many situations in life, and it happens like this: first you explore, then you come up with your own ideas, then you produce your work (in this case, a story), then evaluate your efforts and make changes if you need to.Everyone can learn creativity – it’s a skill like any other. Let's look at how can you practise and use your creative habits as you write your story:- Being inquisitive involves wondering and questioning. Imagine your story is a mystery box, and your curiosity is the key. Ask yourself, 'What if?' as you explore different worlds and ideas to find that one spark that lights up your story. Don’t rely on what’s already in your head though. If I wanted to write about wolves, or the ice age, I would look at how other people have written about them. I’d spend time reading all about them. The details you bring to light through being inquisitive will give your story authenticity and authority.- Creative thinking involves being imaginative. But how do you do this? Play with possibilities, let your imagination run wild! Think of the most extraordinary places, characters, and events. What might your story look like if it were science fiction? How would it be different if it involved magic? These imaginative leaps make your story truly unique.- Now to turn these imaginative thoughts into a coherent story. Thinking about what happens next, and how your ideas fit together, isn't always easy. Remember, every author faces these challenges. Being persistent involves sticking with difficulty. If you get stuck, take a deep breath, and try again. Maybe you need to re-think a character, or even change something drastic. Don’t give up though, because your persistence will help your story grow from the seed of an idea, into a towering tree you’re proud of.- How can you polish the story and make it shine? Thinking creatively involves being disciplined. For a writer this means choosing your words carefully, reading through to check all your characters are convincing, and that your story doesn’t have an overly detailed beginning, rushed middle and loose ends! Taking the time to review and improve it will make your story the best it can be.- Lastly, nobody is creative all by themselves. Being a creative thinker involves being collaborative. Share your story ideas with friends, family, or even your pet! Talking about your story can spark new ideas and help you see your story from different perspectives, making it better and more engaging.

Creative Habits of Mind (image: CCE. Framework developed at the Centre for Real-World Learning at the University of Winchester)

Use these five habits to guide you, but run with your ideas. Every writer's 'voice' is unique, just like every zebra's stripe pattern is one-of-a-kind. To be human is to be creative, and your creativity has no limits, so go ahead and write the story that only you can tell!

Winners announcement

Announcing the winners, runners-up and highly commended entries for the 2024 Time to Write competition

ISEB’s Time to Write creative writing competition for schools has crowned its first winners across four categories. Launched in the spring, the competition received thousands of entries from pupils all over the world. Pupils aged 7-16 submitted stories based on a time-travelling theme in celebration of the exam board’s 120th anniversary.The winning writers of the four categories came from Cumnor House Girl’s School in Croydon, Solefield School in Sevenoaks, Trinity School in Newbury, and The Cathedral School in Llandaff.The winning entry in the Years 10 & 11 category was ‘The Tale of the Time-Travelling Schoolboy’, written by a pupil from Trinity School. The judges praised this story for its “gripping start and great use of descriptive language throughout” and thought it was a “very funny and compelling piece”.First place in the Years 7, 8 & 9 category went to ‘1904: The Sole Survivor’, written by a pupil from The Cathedral School Llandaff. The judging panel was impressed with the “wonderful character development, authentic perspective and great historical setting”.In the Years 5 & 6 category, ‘Seed of Life’, written by a pupil from Solefield School, was awarded first place. The judges praised this story for its “sophisticated introduction and beautifully built mystery”.And ‘Never Forget the Elephants’ written by a pupil from Cumnor House Girl’s School was the winning entry in the Years 3 & 4 category. The judges thought the writer explored the theme of conservation with “empathy and compassion” and were impressed with the original idea and “neatly shaped narrative which produced a well-structured story with a surprise ending”.Runners up and highly commended stories in each category came from schools in England, Belgium, China, Nigeria, and Thailand and can be explored in full below.The judging panel, made up of representatives from Eton College, St Catherine’s Bramley, St Swithun’s, the University of Winchester and Oxford University Press, as well as a children’s book author, reviewed the top ten entries in each category together in Winchester.The thousands of entries were shortlisted by more than 150 people, including teachers from schools that entered pupils, using adaptive comparative judgement technology on the RM Compare platform. The platform presented pairs of stories to judges and asked them to decide which entry was the most creative. Each entry was shown multiple times to different judges alongside different stories, and over time, the platform’s algorithm created a reliable, fair, and accurate ranking of entries produced by the collective wisdom of the judging pool.The four winners will see themselves in print, as their stories will be turned into illustrated books. The winning authors and their schools in each category have also won a selection of prizes generously donated by the Time to Write competition sponsors. Prizes include Bluetooth speakers and headphones from Altec Lansing, an Amazon Fire tablet and book vouchers sponsored by Amazon Web Services/Ingram Micro, a selection of books from Oxford University Press, a portable pen scanner from Scanning Pens and £1000 to spend on school equipment with the TTS Group. The runners-up in each category have also won a set of prizes.

Julia Martin, ISEB Chief Executive, said: “Reading the creative writing of such a talented pool of pupils from around the world was pure enjoyment. The quality of the work was so high that we found ourselves talking about the shortlisted entries in the same way we might analyse the work of graduates and professionals. For all of us on the panel, it was a privilege to read your work and be inspired by your talent.”

Full list of winners, runners up
and highly commended

Years 10 & 11 Category

CommendationStory TitleWinning School
WinnerThe Tale of the Time-Travelling SchoolboyTrinity School, Newbury
Runner upA Fiery Flicker of HopeWolsey Hall, Oxford
Runner upGelato SorceryWolsey Hall, Oxford
Highly commendedForeseeable FutureWolsey Hall, Oxford
Highly commendedImaginationsWolsey Hall, Oxford
Highly commendedSee You LaterWolsey Hall, Oxford
Highly commendedThe Power of WordsWolsey Hall, Oxford
Highly commendedTo Escape a LifetimeWolsey Hall, Oxford
Highly commendedTrial by ArenaWolsey Hall, Oxford
Highly commendedWorlds IntertwinedWolsey Hall, Oxford

Years 7, 8 & 9 Category

CommendationStory TitleWinning School
Winner1904: The Sole SurvivorThe Cathedral School, Llandaff
Runner upCure From the FutureEdgeborough School
Runner upThe Demons of YesterdayGrange School
Highly commendedAn Amber Dot in TimeKing's College School, Cambridge
Highly commendedNo More WarVinehall School
Highly commendedThe Time MachineSheffield Girls' School
Highly commendedThe PortraitEdgeborough School
Highly commendedTime Travelling StorySevenoaks School
Highly commendedThe Twin Time MachineGrange School
Highly commendedTolu and Ade's Timeless TaleGrange School

Years 5 & 6 Category

CommendationStory TitleWinning School
WinnerSeed of LifeSolefield School
Runner upFatal MistakesKing's College, Bangkok
Runner upThe DwellersBlackheath Prep
Highly commendedThe Decision is YoursTrevor-Roberts School
Highly commendedLostDurlston School
Highly commendedScreen TimeLyonsdown School
Highly commendedThe Frozen FutureSt Francis, Pewsey
Highly commendedThe prophecyBrighton College Prep School
Highly commendedA Twist in TimeThomas's Clapham

Years 3 & 4 Category

CommendationStory TitleWinning School
WinnerNever Forget the ElephantsCumnor House Girl's School
Runner upThe Only One LeftHigh March
Runner upThe Secret of a National HeritagePembridge Hall School
Highly commendedHidden ClockRGS Prep
Highly commendedBrownie and Chocolate's Spinning AdventureHilden Grange
Highly commendedFuture Sweet FutureBritish Junior Academy of Brussels
Highly commendedJemima's Time Travel AdventureKellett School
Highly commendedThe Secret Sausage RecipeParkgate House School
Highly commendedThe Suspicious RadioDulwich College, Beijing
Highly commendedThe Rainbow DragonWolsey Hall, Oxford
Highly commendedTime TravelKellett School

Congratulations to all the winners, runners up and highly commended entries and to the thousands of pupil's from over 13 countries who submitted stories!

Commended stories

The Tale of the Time-Travelling Schoolboy

Trinity School, Newbury

Winner of the Years 10 & 11 category

Daniel was upside down. Or rather, he nearly was. He’d found that it was quite tricky to get himself completely upside down, so had settled for a strange headstand against the wall in his bedroom. The loud thuds had brought his mother upstairs, but his stern face
had just as quickly banished her. She just managed to get out a weak “But… Why?”, before she decided against this line of enquiry and instead laid down in a darkened room.
The fact was, Daniel was bored. Mind-numbingly, teeth-achingly so. It was only the second week of the summer holidays, and all his friends were in places like Barcelona, Belize, Benidorm, and other sunny destinations beginning with the letter ‘b’. He’d hadhad to turn to homework for entertainment. After seventeen minutes of reading about what inspired Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, (“From my window I could see two beautiful rabbits playing and running on the lawn, they showed me how to live, you see,” et cetera, et cetera…), Daniel turned firmly away from homework, feeling slightly nauseous and more than a little fed up.“I’m going out!”, he yelled, swinging his coat around his head, and sliding down the banister. His mother whimpered in response.Taking this as a sign of assent, he left through the front door, came back in for his shoes, and set off across the fields behind their house. Daniel enjoyed being in the fresh air. It made a pleasant change from being cooped up indoors with a sister who slept until dinner and no Wi-Fi (Daniel swore it wasn’t him who broke the router). He took the forest path, the sun’s rays percolating gently through the living ceiling above him.A hill rose steeply in front of him. Daniel felt this hill must have been around since the beginning of time, it’s solid mass a reassuring presence. And, considering this sentiment, he began his assent.It took Daniel a minute to realise that he was falling. He hardly noticed the ground giving gently beneath him. Before he knew it, he was tumbling into darkness, a tantalising window of light shooting away from his outstretched fingertips. A minute, a full minute
later, he introduced himself to the floor. They didn’t get on.
The first thing he noticed was that it wasn’t dark down there. Light seemed to be spreading outwards from the corner, not enough to truly illuminate the surroundings, but just enough to inform Daniel that something was there. Wincing, he struggled to his feet and hobbled to investigate. A strange object stared back at him. It was covered in dust but appeared to resemble a horizontal hourglass. Daniel concluded that it was clearly magical, which was perfectly logical considering the circumstances. He picked it up and blew off some of the dust. Immediately, it began to beep and vibrate violently. He saw on the part he had cleared that it said, ‘Blow here to begin transmission process’. Panicking, he went to let go of it, but saw a glow around his right thumb. The words above it read, ‘Place thumb here to encode DNA’. Thrusting the thing away from him in dismay, he accidentally twisted the two ends in opposite directions. He was not one bit surprised to see the words, ‘Twist ends to initiate internal drive’. He finally threw it on the floor, clocking as he did a final message: ‘Place on floor to finalise recall’. Beside it, a digital clock displayed the number ‘-120’. Puzzling over this rather unusual chain of events, Daniel hardly noticed as the machine split in half and shot a beam of bright, bright light at him…Bushes are not comfortable. It’s why tents were invented. As Daniel removed a leaf from his mouth, he attempted to survey his surroundings. Deciding that this was best done from outside the bush, he carefully extricated himself and looked around. He appeared to be in someone’s garden, a low wall holding it back from acres of wild countryside. The strange machine was still in the bush, humming gently. It now displayed a 30-minute timer, slowly ticking away. At the far end of the sloping lawn, a squat house sat. It had two large windows facing the garden. Through one of them, a small room with a desk looked out over the grounds. At the desk sat a woman. Daniel joltingly realised that he recognised her. It was Beatrix Potter. And she was looking right at him.He wasn’t quite sure what to do; on the one hand, he had travelled back in time. On the other, he had travelled back in time. And he was trampling Beatrix Potter’s begonias. He perfectly reasonably dived back into the bush, feeling the corner of his t-shirt tear in the
process. He poked the top of his head out of and looked towards the house. Beatrix Potter was blinking in disbelief. Apparently deciding (rather like Daniel’s mother) that the best course of action was to do nothing, she turned back to her notebook, and tried to ignore the tuft of hair peeping out of her rhododendron. Daniel exulted in his victory and congratulated himself on his quick thinking. Then he saw them. In the corner of the bush, cowering in abject terror, sat two rabbits.
Beatrix Potter glanced up from her notebook. She was still confused as to why there was a small child in her bush and had actually been writing a speech with which to address him (“improper conduct”, “criminal damage”, “frankly weird”). But something else drew her eye. Two rabbits were bolting across her lawn, looking as though they had just seen Mr McGregor. Although clearly in terror, there was something magical about their
movements. The idea for a new story began to form, taking shape and spreading its wings. She barely even noticed the muffled cry of, “FROLICK!!” coming from a rustling hedge.
* * *
Beatrix Potter picked up a fragment of fabric. Turning it over, she saw a named sticker adhering to the underside. Daniel, she thought.
* * *
Daniel was home, and, not unusually, confused. The time machine had very obligingly dropped him off above ground, and not in the damp and nearly bottomless hole where he’d found it. He’d been able to locate an ancient-looking keypad and had input a very strongly worded request. He looked at the title of the book he’d been reading for
homework: Notes on The Tale of Daniel the Rabbit. Although he mourned the loss of the pleasing alliteration, he thought the new was name very, very good.

Commended stories

A Fiery Flicker of Hope

Wolsey Hall, Oxford

Runner up in the Years 10 & 11 category

Niamph was a rational girl, clumsy at the worst of times, and a genius at the best. She wasn’t known to take risks. At least, not yet, she wasn’tThe dingy cave provided little light, making the presence of a strange glowing entity within concerning and rather intriguing to Niamph, considering she’d visited this cave numerous times during her escapades to the ruins just outside. Niamph was a scholar, you see, obsessed with the fairy-tale creatures those before her had written of. And, naturally, this obsession led her to use those tales for her recent essay.Many of the tales had been destroyed with the country’s aging, but she still held them near and dear to her heart, ultimately leading her here. Her country’s Great Library had been burnt down an estimated one hundred and nineteen years prior by a presumed arsonist; burning the dreamy, legendary Book of Legends with it.This cave was just above the ruins.This…thing, that claimed itself as a time machine, also claimed it could take her one hundred and twenty years into the past, according to the grimy instruction manual she’d found on the floor. It also claimed it could bring her back again, simply by returning to the time machine and going forwards.It could easily just be someone’s strange idea of a prank, but there was nobody else inside the cave, and no apparent cameras. Only the drip, drop of the roof’s leaky spots.
The ‘time machine’ looked to be a blue colour at the base, with a chipped paint job, and silver steel square parts surrounding, giving it a futuristic feel that certainly checked out in her head. The buttons, however, were reminiscent of a lift’s. Inside, the plate below emitted a faint glow in a precise circle, while the rest was still a solid silver steel. Quite intimidating, actually, Niamph thought. Although, the entire situation was intimidating. And ridiculous. A time machine, here? In the middle of some random cave? When she’d followed the light, she’d expected some cave explorer, or something normal. Something familiar. It goes without saying that a time machine was not something familiar. But it could provide her answers. Answers she has hungered, starved for since she was a small child.
It was around nighttime, according to her antique watch, assuming this did work, and transported her to the same time of day and same cave, she could get into the library. It’s not like they had much security back then. But still, what if the book was being borrowed? How ridiculous of a thing to be thinking while simultaneously thinking of time travel. Nonetheless, it was a possibility; one that Niamph steeled herself for. If all went as planned, she would have the book. If not? Well…she’d rather not think about that.A prickle of doubt trickled down her spine. Maybe hunger for knowledge really did make you crazy, huh. She stepped in, and before she could think to stop herself, clicked the button.
A strange warm sensation prickled around her body. It felt tingly, but pleasant. At first. Then the warmth became slightly oppressive, so she squeezed her eyes and fingers shut, her knuckles beginning to turn white.
Luckily, it didn’t last for too much longer, and cold, crisp air gushed pleasantly through the doors as they opened. She clutched the strap of her messenger bag tighter as she warily tip-toed into the damp cave once again.Not much had changed, really, so she continued to the exit. That was when she saw the difference. That was when her breath hitched in her lungs, and she instinctively clutched her bag’s strap even tighter. The scene before her was beautiful. The ruins really don’t do it enough justice, she realised, as she began her light tread down the slope. She took time to appreciate the beautiful architecture of the perfectly carved, detailed, antique walls, and the old-fashioned tables laid outside underneath ornately decorated floral parasols.She crossed through the courtyard of outdoor tables, sneakily gliding her fingers lightly over the rough tabletops. She noted that one table was just beneath an open window. She knew it would be easy, if she couldn’t simply walk through the front door anyways, but geez.
The door was unlike anything she’d seen before, even upon the fanciest churches; beautiful, insanely, enchantingly so. It beckoned her to open it, to try. Diligently, she tried both push and pull. To no avail, sadly, and so she sighed and resigned herself to the window. She was careful not to make too much noise as she crashed-landed her way into the library and inconveniently onto a table of piled books, internally apologising to the librarian.
After regaining her bearings, and footing, she noted the moonlight poured into a corner through a large window with a wide windowsill. And there lay a half-melted candle!She stumbled on her way there, the place too dark to see properly, until she finally sat heavily next to the candle. She sighed and threw her head back, smoothing her hair that, somehow, seemed to mirror her stress, then began to root through her messenger bag quickly in the moonlight. She carried a lighter around courtesy of some friends. After a little more hurried rummaging, and nervous glances through the windows behind her, she found her trusty red lighter.She grabbed the candle and lit, watching the flame flicker before finding it’s place comfortably onto the wick. She decided to hurry; her first mistake. Believing that a candle would illuminate her path; her second. Before she knew it, her entire body was face-down strewn across the ground, and the candle, the candle, the fire, caught itself on a wooden shelf.Niamph didn’t know how fast fire spread until now, as it engulfed the entire shelf greedily, already reaching out on either side for the next. She shrieked as it crawled towards her, fast, expectantly, hungrily, like a demon ready to feast.It wasn’t an arsonist at all.

Commended stories

Gelato Sorcery

Wolsey Hall, Oxford

Runner up in the Years 10 & 11 category

There is only the present.Merlin contemplated the neat paper card, flipping it over in his hand under the firelight at his fingertip. It appeared to be note, a message rather than a clue as to what he was supposed to do now that he was here, a hundred feet below the earth, deep inside a nameless cave where a strange box awaited him.A sigh. Merlin tentatively reached his hands towards the box, unclipping the latches and opened it.There was no brilliant effulgence of anticipation when the box was opened, nothing that would have prepared him for the fantastic nature of what laid inside. A pocket watch, meticulously nestled on a velvet cushion.He knew what it meant, but just what was he to do with it first?Books, studies, research – everything he knew about chronomancy was only ever theoretical. He would be a fool to dive head first into his past, a child playing around with sand as if he were god. It was wiser to take things a step at a time.A shift in space, a slight drop upon the same dusty ground. Nothing else had changed. He was still in the cave. Perhaps the rocks had moved a little, but that was all.He chuckled, and with the snap of his finger, vanished from the darkness of the cave, appearing once more in the sunny streets of a piazza. It was a piazza from his time, the location at least.It was still a piazza a hundred and twenty years ago, though nothing like he remembered. The buildings were far shorter, the skies much bluer, and all the people were dressed in simple tunics and britches.Then he felt a friendly tap on his shoulder that turned him around. Smiling at him in greeting, a couple gelato cups in hand, was a middle-aged gentleman with a goatee and neatly combed hair, clothed in a presumptuous starry robe and shawl – much like himself.“Gelato?” he asked perkily, offering Merlin either one of the untouched cups.He liked chocolate, though the fruity flavor of strawberry would be nicer than a milkier taste on a hot sunny day, but just as he was about to thank the gentleman and take the strawberry gelato, a whoosh like a swooping pelican warped into being beside him, placing a firm hand on his shoulder to stop him.His sudden appearance startled him, and Merlin jumped back a step, throwing his hand away. His hand. Standing before him, was himself, exactly the same as he was now, though just a little different.Most bizarre, he thought, his lips crinkling as his brows lifted.“You should pick the chocolate one,” he said to himself.“Why?” Merlin asked, curious as to what was going on.“Because I picked the strawberry one and it didn’t taste as good as I imagined.”Before he could answer, another whoosh, this time, before his very eye, a twirl of black cloth from a spot in thin air, and out came himself. Again. “No!” he shouted, his hands raised in protest. “You must take the strawberry! The chocolate gelato is laced and shall cause you a week of stomach pains!”“You should still choose the chocolate one,” the second Merlin said sternly. “It is a matter of determining our fate. I chose the strawberry because that is what we’re destined for. If you want to challenge fate, you must choose the chocolate gelato.”“Fate doesn’t matter, you fool!” the third Merlin shook with frustration. “He’ll only choose the chocolate gelato because you hereby told him to! The fact that you are here now is arguably as an agent of fate! Who’s to say we weren’t destined to eat the chocolate gelato this whole time? Because I’m from the future of your future and that’s what happened. And because of it, I’ve got stomach pains.”“Wait, I really ate the chocolate gelato because of me?” the second Merlin asked, confused.“I ate the chocolate gelato because of…” the third Merlin trailed off. “Gentleman,” he calmed himself, “by the rate this is going, a fourth of one us is going to show up any time now and tell him to choose a third flavor for all we know, but he hasn’t shown up yet. That must mean he’s the wiser one out of us all.”“Aye, because he’s me,” Merlin said, grinning. “I have to thank the two of me for coming all this way, but sadly, you must return to whatever paradox you sprung from now, because I have made up my mind. I am going to eat the strawberry gelato.”“Why?” both of himself asked.“There is only the present,” Merlin preached. “You may be from the future, and to you, I, from the past, but where we all stand now, is the present, and the two of you being here is proof enough of that.”Merlin turned to the purple-robed gentleman.“That is what this whole affair was about, yes, Master Blaise?”“You tell me, apprentice – or should I say apprentices,” he chuckled.“I’ve been blessed with prophecies, glimpses into my own future too, and because of it, I’ve often wondered whether I could change them somehow, hoping I might one day unlock the cosmic fathoms of chronomancy that would provide me with the means. But that isn’t what chronomancy is for. Chronomancy is the freedom to roam spacetime, and when you have that kind of power, it becomes redundant to fixate on past mistakes or to exploit your freedom for a ‘better’ future, one you will only get to live once you get there.“Though I’ve seen what’s to come in a hundred and twenty years, as well as hundred and twenty years after that, the truth is, I’m not there yet. And for that, I raise a toast: To living in the moment, because in the moment, I would like nothing more than to have some strawberry gelato.”

Commended stories

1904: The Sole Survivor

The Cathedral School, Llandaff

Winner of the Years 7, 8 & 9 category

A stone silent canary stood on top of the plinth on the memorial, overlooking our town, which
listed the names of 44 men killed in the Greenhill Pit explosion, but my great-grandfather’s name was missing.
I looked at the list of places my grandfather had written in his delicate handwriting. I crossed off ‘memorial’. Fat rain drops started to fall from the sky, perfect, I thought, this school project was turning out to be a real bore. We all had to research something from our family history, but in my family, there were no war heroes, explorers or footballers. But my grandfather had sent me on a quest, his list had so far sent me to the library, the chapel, and the memorial. Now I looked at the next place on his list, this time instead of a placename he had sketched a small map. I trudged off, pulling up my hood against the rain.After hours of climbing, I finally arrived at the X that was shown on the map. I was surrounded by verdant valleys; the view was breathtaking. Weirdly, the X on the map matched a strange etching on the wall of the rocky hill above a cave behind rotten planks. I took in the scenery once more before cramming my body in between the planks, switching on the torch on my phone before plunging into the darkness.I realised very quickly that this was an old mine and I regretted not charging my phone. In the dimming light of my phone I could make out rusted pickaxes, charred TNT boxes and cobwebs everywhere.Everything went dark. My phone battery had died. I felt my way around, brushing my hands on the slimy walls taking careful steps. Suddenly, I stumbled, and fell onto the cold ground. As I lifted myself off the ground a sudden wave of dizziness and nausea hit me.There was an oxidised lift in the shadows. I stepped into the dilapidated lift As I descended, a cool draught of air whipped up my spine. I heard strange sounds like boots on rocks, creaking, shifting timber and amplified breathing. I thought I was alone. Suddenly, the lights illuminate the dank mineshaft, and someone was already waiting at the foot of the lift, holding a wheelbarrow filled with coal.“Oi, who are ya?” Wheelbarrow person grunted out.“I’m Rhys”“New ‘ere ain't ya? Follow Old Rhys, NOW”The air was thick and tasted of sweat and cold rock. Something strange was happening. Glancing around I saw the men and boys were all dressed very differently, no-one was wearing jeans and definitely no-one was wearing Nikes! The TNT boxes were filled with hundreds of waxy sticks of dynamite.Old Rhys looked like someone I had met before, but I couldn’t place him. It was weird that he had the same name as me.“What's the canary for?” I asked, spotting a cage with a yellow bird inside.“Us miners ‘ere don’t know when the gases get too strong, so we take a canary down with us. If it dies, we know it's time to get out.”, He replied in a gruff tone. “Your job is to stand here and watch that canary. The minute it looks a bit ill you yell.”He walked off, leaving me and the canary in the flickering lamplight.Several hours passed. Suddenly I realised something had changed: the bird’s chirping had stopped. It was struggling to breathe. I had to warn them. I ran through the tunnels grabbing old Rhys by the sleeve. I couldn’t breathe or shout, but I pulled him to the lift as fast as I could. He seemed quite heavy, in shock, before he realised what was happening. As the lift ascended, I heard a man shout ‘FIRING’ and the deadly hiss of the dynamite fuse.The lift was climbing metre by metre. There was an almighty BANG. Below, I saw the tunnel engulfed in a bright fireball. The ceiling started to cave in. The lift kept climbing, just escaping the brunt of the flame. We stumbled out and I'd never felt so glad it was still raining. I turned around to check on old Rhys but all I saw was those rotten planks in the same place and the same X etched into them.I started walking back down the hill trying to figure out what had just happened. Had I just bumped my head and fell out of consciousness? I put one hand in my pocket and the other to my head.I pulled out the list and from the envelope fell a sepia photograph, it was the face of a man, Old Rhys. I turned over the picture and on the back was written in my grandfather’s delicate handwriting:‘Rhys Davies, your great grandfather, sole survivor of the Greenhill Pit tragedy, 1904’.

Commended stories

Cure from the future

Edgeborough School

Runner up in the Years 7, 8 & 9 category

It was just another hot, dry, sweaty day on the coast of Cornwall, but for me, today was another day that I might lose one of the most important people in my life: My mum. Everyone keeps telling me that she will recover from the cancer, eventually. Obviously, I don’t believe this anymore. These comments only get my hopes up, so I’ve learned to tune them out. It would be a miracle if she ever recovered. Of course, me and Dad did visit her, occasionally. However, over the years, the trips that we have made to the hospital have got less and less frequent, and one day, I suppose they’ll stop altogether. I don’t remember exactly when my mum first got cancer. All I can recall is ‘that day.’ The day she left home and never came back. I guess I’ll never know what I missed in that phonics lesson on the second day of reception.***I was welcomed into the hospital with sound of beeping machines and crying children. It smelt horrible, like someone had tried to clean but hadn’t quite managed to get the aroma of vomit, blood and grime out of the atmosphere. I had no idea how anyone managed to live there, especially sick people, who are meant to be in the hospital to get better. I lost dad about ten times among the sea of wheelchairs, bawling babies, and old men frantically waving their walking sticks around. I was extremely overwhelmed with it all. I was only four at the time and didn’t really understand what was going on. The state Dad was in however, was another story. He was sweating like a pitcher full of ice water and he was breathing so deeply that you could probably have heard him on the other side of the hospital.When we finally made it to Mum’s ward, Dad started sobbing like a newborn baby. I stood in the doorway, staring at mum. She looked fine on the outside, but I could tell that something was wrong. I sprinted over to her hospital bed, and she pulled me into an embrace.
“What’s going on?” I asked apprehensively.
“Darling, I’m going to be staying here for quite a while.”
“Why, mummy?”
“Mummy’s ill sweetheart. I have to stay here so the doctors can make sure I get better.
“You will get better though, right?”
“Of course I will. I guarantee it.”
***Tears pricked my eyes and I thought about how different my life would be without her. Although, I suppose knowing that she was gone was better than waiting for her to go. There wasn’t much hope left on my part.I knew that I had to clear my head and there was only one place for that. Walsgate Cave. It wasn’t much of a cave, more like a chink in the side of a cliff, barely the size of my bedroom in our cosy cottage on the coast. It was small, dark and damp but something about it calmed me. I could lay down on the sand for hours listening to the gentle crash of the waves and the screeching seagulls. However, when I entered the cave today, I noticed something unusual. There was a small alarm clock carefully placed on top of one of the piles of rocks. The cave was completely abandoned, and I had never seen anyone in here except myself, so I was extremely taken aback when I saw this clock in such good condition.I immediately noticed that the time on the clock was terribly wrong, so I proceeded to correct it. I glanced at my watch: exactly midday. I slowly turned the knob on the back of the clock until every hand was pointing at twelve. The ground started shaking. Was there an earthquake? Hundreds of tiny rocks were being flung all around the cave. What was happening? All went black.I unwillingly opened my eyes and observed my surroundings. I was on the floor, in a cold sweat, shaking.
“What happened?” I groaned.
I sluggishly walked out onto the beach and headed back to my house, but when I got there, it was gone! Had I taken the wrong path or something? I thought that maybe Dad was at the hospital, so I headed there instead. Luckily, I knew the way there, and didn’t get lost again.
When I walked through the double doors, I noticed that it looked different. Cleaner and nicer. I walked up to the front desk and asked to see my mum, but the lady there said that there hadn’t been a Fiona Solace at the hospital for 120 years.
“What year is it?” I asked shakily.
“It’s 2144 dear, why do you ask?”
“No reason. One more question. Is there a cure for cancer yet?”
“Of course there is, invented by the amazing Dr Paislee Solace.”
“Me?” I whispered under my breath.

Commended stories

The Demons Of Yesterday

Grange School

Runner up in the Years 7, 8 & 9 category

My ears perked up at the sharp buzzing sound echoing through the mountains and over the swaying sakura trees. I knew this was a bad idea. How had Chiyo even managed to convince me to do this? It was past midnight, and the only things I had with me were my nearly-dead phone and a half-eaten box of Pocky. What had I gotten myself into?As we ascended the mountain, the buzzing grew louder, and the temperature dropped. With each step, the air grew colder and more oppressive. We struggled to find proper footing, slipping a few times. Suddenly, something caught my eye. I turned to see a large, dark opening on the side of the mountain. I paused to analyze my surroundings, closing my eyes and listening attentively for any sound. But before I could think, Chiyo grabbed my wrist and dragged us both into the dark cave.I switched on my flashlight and scanned the area, studying the inscriptions on the walls.
One inscription stood out; it read, “別のタイムラインへの旅,” which translates to “A journey to another timeline.” I was confused. A journey to another timeline? In Mizukaze City, it could mean anything. I looked around again and noticed another inscription further up the wall, partially obscured by a thick layer of dust, suggesting it had been there for a long time. As I wiped away the dust, the inscription revealed itself: "選ばれし 者のみ," translated to "Only the chosen ones." The message sent a chill down my spine. What did it mean? Who were the chosen ones, and why were we here?
As we ventured deeper into the cave, the air grew colder, and the oppressive atmosphere intensified, as if the very rock around us was trying to keep us out. Chiyo seemed unfazed, his determination unwavering as he led the way with a confidence I couldn't muster. The walls of the cave were rough and uneven, with jagged rocks jutting out at odd angles. The floor was littered with loose stones, making each step treacherous. I stumbled several times, grateful for Chiyo's steadying hand.The buzzing sound that had drawn us here was now a deafening roar, echoing off the cave walls and sending shivers through my bones. It was disorienting, making it difficult to focus on anything else. As we pressed on, the cave began to narrow, squeezing us into a tight passage barely wide enough to walk through. The air grew thick with dust, making it hard to breathe. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, the weight of the unknown pressing down on me.Finally, we emerged into a large chamber, the source of the buzzing revealed to be a massive metal hive hanging from the ceiling. Thousands of bats swarmed around us, their flapping wings filling the air with a deafening cacophony. Chiyo seemed unconcerned, his gaze fixed on something at the far end of the chamber. I followed his gaze and saw it: a shimmering portal, hovering in mid-air like a rip in reality itself. The inscription on the wall suddenly made sense. We had stumbled upon a gateway to another timeline, and somehow, we were the ones destined to pass through it.A white light flashed before my eyes, and two sentences appeared, floating in thin air. One sentence bright red, and the other one a deep shade of blue.
The first one read; “現 在から未来へ120年,” “From the present to the future, 120 years.”
And the other one; “現 在から過去へ120年,” “From the present to the past, 120 years.”
Before I could think, Chiyo rushed up from behind me and through the portal. Then it began to glow red. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to go in there, but I couldn’t just abandon Chiyo. He was my best friend. I held my breath, closed my eyes, and ran through the portal as fast as I could. I felt an electric current through my bones, running from my head to my toes.
I opened my eyes and gazed around the area, squinting from the bright light. It took me a while to notice, but then I realized; there was something different about this place. The falling leaves on the sakura trees were blood red, and the people were dressed in all-white clothing, a few of them stained in what looked like blood. The people looked frightened.I tried to communicate with several of them, asking them if they had seen Chiyo and why they were so frightened. But they spoke a dialect of Japanese that I couldn’t understand. The only word I could understand was “悪魔,” a word that had followed me around since the beginning of time. “Demon,” I repeated the word in my head over and over again, twisting and turning through the winding pathways, keeping my eyes peeled in hopes of spotting Chiyo.Suddenly, I couldn’t walk anymore.
I could barely even stand.
The world went black. And the buzzing sound continued

Commended stories

Seed of Life

Solefield School

Winner of the Years 5 & 6 category

I looked around and debated my chances. Others were already scurrying around frantically, trying to find a good hiding spot, when I saw a small entrance of a cavern hidden between two roots of a nearby tree. I left my hiding spot and cautiously shuffled over to the entrance. I heard a twig snap: Peter was near. I took a deep breath before squeezing myself through the small opening.Thump! My body crashed into the hard, stony floor. Anxious, I stood up to see a small amount of light protruding from the hole in the ceiling of the cavern. I suddenly noticed a jumble of pipes and wires in the corner of the room with two doors. I walked closer to investigate. One door was made of dark oak and outlined by black nails. The handle was made of intricately carved gold. The other door was perfectly white and had LED lights rimmed around the edge. I noticed the two signs above them - 120 years into the past and the other 120 years into the future.My mind raced; I could uncover the mysteries of the past or discover the fate of our world. I slowly and uncertainly walked towards the blinding white door. As it slid back, mist bellowed out of the top of the contraption. I was staring into an endless void, very similar to the sea, but swirling around in a hypnotic way. I took a confident step forward.My body warped through reality and the matter in myself became one with the universe, as I broke through the barrier of time and space, cascading into the future, or now the present.In an instant, I was lying spread eagled on the floor of the cavern. I looked up and mantled through back up the bunny hole. I looked around in horror at the barren wasteland. Huge mountains covered the earth, lava spewing out of them. Ash covered the ground like a thick blanket and the sky was no longer lit up by the sun.As I walked around in this hellish place, I thought of how this could be prevented. If I went back to my time, I could warn people but who would believe an 11-year-old boy like me? The fate of this world could not be prevented. Walking back to the hole, to go back to the present, or maybe past, I realized there was something hard in my shoe. I ripped my shoe off and shook it, and saw a small seed fall onto the ground.Suddenly it sprouted. It was like time was sped up here. I watched in awe as the sprout grew into a sapling, then into a small tree. Within seconds, a majestic willow tree was towering over me. Lush grass was spreading from the roots of the tree, like a ripple effect when you throw a stone into the water. Before I knew it, I was looking at verdant fields and many more trees, growing as far as I could see. Something was still missing. Looking up towards the barren, grey sky, I felt warmth on my neck. I turned around to see the majestic fireball that burns out evil and fills our world with light.I gazed around in wonder as I heard birds chirping again. I wondered why the world had turned barren. At that moment, it came to me. Our race had ruined earth and God had wiped us out, knowing that someday a small seed of time would repopulate the earth. The world would be restored to its vivid self.This was Earth’s second chance, but this time without humans.Suddenly, a loud booming voice echoed through the meadow and body suddenly weaved through time and space. I landed with a crash on the stony cave floor. I could hear footsteps above me and Peter shouting my name in concern. I turned around to take one last look at the time machine, but it was gone.I heaved myself out of the cave once again and walked over to Peter. When he noticed me, he turned around and stated, "Sirius, you won the game!’’ As he said that, I silently muttered to myself, “I did a lot more than win.”

Commended stories

Fatal Mistakes

King's College, Bangkok

Runner up in the Years 5 & 6 category

Date: 16 April 2144
Time: 08:58 AM
Location: USA
They’re coming.
I can’t run
These were my thoughts before reaching my hand out for the machine before me. My sweaty hand trembled as I touched the knob. My hand clasped the handle and I felt the urge to pull the lever. I couldn’t resist it.They were advancing.My heart stopped momentarily as a memory came to my head…120 years ago in the year 2024, my great grandfather, Dr. Robert Sanchez, was the scientist
who experimented with a virus that rapidly mutated and got out of control. Those infected by the virus will succumb to an excruciating death. Their skin would turn ashen in 3 hours due to decomposition. We weren't able to help them. The virus swiftly mutated to take control of the soulless bodies. The corpse will then be reborn into a gruesome life. These beings will assault and infect other people. They would only target humans as animals couldn’t be infected. They were called Zombies, the living dead and the fallen servants of the virus.
If only I could go back in time and save humankind. It was my great grandfather who was the cause of this, therefore, it is my burden to change the course of history.Coming back to my senses I smelled the rotten, abysmal scent of the progressing zombies. I
looked down at the time machine my family had kept secret for so long. This was my family’s
heirloom. On the panel was a clock with two options. One, to go back 120 years into the past
and another to go 120 years into the future. I clicked the button to go back into the past and
pulled the lever, traveling into the endless void of time. BLAM! There was a blast of frosty
bone-chilling wind that pierced me as I was knocked back by the jolt of the vehicle. A flash of blinding light startled me and I started to regret my decision. This machine can only be used once, so I know I won’t be returning to the present.
Date: 16 April 2024
Time: 08:58 AM
Location: USA
The vehicle stopped. Darkness surrounded me, I was in the cave. Springing into action, I quickly ran out and saw it. There sat the laboratory. Not wrecked. Not burnt. Not even with a scratch on it. I felt relieved. The time machine worked! Maybe there's still a chance of saving humankind! The thought came to my head as a warm spark of confidence lit up inside me. I was ready to stop the creation of zombies. Full of confidence, I opened the heavy metal door, hoping for coolness since there was none this morning. I received more than I had wished for. It was absolutely freezing! Realizing exactly what it was, I was petrified and uncontrollably shocked. It was a morgue.Looking at all the name tags stuck to the freezers, I realized these were the most dangerous criminals of the time. They were the test subjects of the virus. Triggered by this inhumane act I stormed out of the morgue then found another door, which led to the experiment room. In the middle was a metal bed, luckily, it was still unused. Next to it was a trolly with 5 syringes and a flask containing black liquid. The flask was labeled V-8264. This was it. The original virus.“Who goes there?” shouted a guard.NO! I thought, I couldn't be caught this quickly. I grabbed the flask and was going to burn the virus. I bolted for the door but the guard was already there. He tried to grab the flask but I struck him in the stomach. He collapsed. As I was going to run, he grabbed my ankle, tripping me. The flask flew out of my hand as I watched helplessly. It spun in the air and CRACK! The flask broke as it smashed my chest.I had made a fatal mistake. I became the first zombie

Commended stories

The Dwellers

Blackheath Prep

Runner up in the Years 5 & 6 category

Ben was fatigued. His weak and frail body ached all over. It had been four days since he had last eaten. He was on the run and was sure he was going to die.Ben was an orphan, and the orphanage is where he called home. He was a sickly child who was bullied often. He knew he needed to escape that dreadful place, start afresh, far, far away.Getting out of the dilapidated orphanage was simple, security wasn’t a priority. Cautiously, after lights out he’d climbed through a broken window and jumped down onto the grass below with a relatively soft landing.A light flickered, and he heard a faint clammer in the distance. Ben ran for his life, suddenly realising he had no food or water. Foolish he thought but an urge for freedom drove him on.At his wits end, no provisions, nowhere to go, Ben wondered why he’d been so reckless, after a few days he felt doomed.Unexpectedly, late one night something flashed and caught his eye. It appeared metallic. Steadily, he crept towards the mysterious object. He thought he was hallucinating.Curiosity got the better of him however, and he entered the machine.It was magnificent! Cogs and wheels spinning around inside a pure white, futuristic mechanical structure. Marvelling at the complexity, a striking voice shocked him:“Ben. You have had a challenging life. You deserve more. You have two options. Travel 120 years into the past or zoom 120 years into the future."It’s a time machine! Ben’s frail body was trembling. He had no place in this world. He always dreamed of going to the future and had imagined what it would be like. The choice was easy for him.“Take me to the future please!” Ben said nervously.Abruptly, a door slammed behind him, and the hefty contraption began to shudder. Crack! Bang! A great flash of bright light, and then everything was ominously still. It was as if the world had ended. Ben began to lose consciousness.Coming to his senses, he saw he was in a muddy plain. He was panicked by a poisonous smoke that was drifting up. Ben cried out in fear like a banshee.
“Hey! What’s your name?” Boomed a deep distant voice.
“Ben.” He whispered, obviously afraid.“Ben?” The voice exclaimed.“Come with me to the haven, where you can explain what you are doing out here. It’s not safe.” The voice ordered.“What is the Haven?” Ben asked.“Come.” Concluded the voice.Ben saw that there was no point resisting and followed the voice to the ‘Haven.’They entered a large underground dome with the most advanced technology Ben had ever imagined. This must be the Haven, he thought. Amazingly, and to his total surprise inside the dome there were ordinary people. A society, people walking around, chatting, and laughing. Ben was shocked. From what he’d seen outside he thought humanity had ended, and those that had survived would be struggling to survive! They however appeared to be prospering!“Come to the meeting room!” said the voice, which in the light was shown to come from a man, with a warm smile.“OK.” Ben said, reflecting a smile back.Over the next few hours Ben learned that that a meteor had slammed into the earth in 2032, obliterating almost all life on the surface. Fortunately, there’d been time to prepare; scientists, engineers, doctors, and other important people had been sent to underground vaults where they spent 50 years in stasis waiting for conditions to improve.Now Ben found himself in the society that they had begun to rebuild, the dwellers, as they called themselves. Sadly, they had lost much of the history of the world from before, and Ben realised that this was now his purpose. To teach them about his world, and to learn more about theirs.This was it, he thought. Finally, somewhere I belong

Commended stories

Never Forget the Elephants

Cumnor House Girl's School

Winner of the Years 3 & 4 category

The scorching savannah rocked back and forth, blown by the ruthless wind. The crisp grass danced wildly. From our Jeep, I saw a majestic but seemingly sombre creature stumbling around by itself. Something was wrong. Experts might say it’s impossible, but I swear I saw a tear running down that elephant’s cheek.“Just over 100 years ago there was a tribe called the Waka Pichu that poached the African Forest Elephants for their valuable ivory tusks. Now, only one elephant remains.” explained our guide.As I stepped out to get some fresh air, I caught sight of a gargantuan cave; it had a miniscule entrance that you could easily have missed but it caught my eye and I felt drawn to it. Once inside, I feasted my eyes on towering piles of shimmering gold, illuminating the mysterious cave. I filled my pockets to the brim; I was rich! I rummaged excitedly through the greatest array of treasures to have been discovered since Aladdin’s cave. Suddenly, I chanced upon a peculiar looking, rusty alarm clock. I decided to press ‘Play’…“You have two options,” a booming voice bellowed. “You may either travel 120 years into the past or 120 years into the future. Choose wisely…”Instinctively I wanted to choose the future; I had always thought it would be so cool to travel forward in time. But then the image of the sorrowful elephant flashed across my mind, and I realised by going back 120 years I could save the elephants! As I pressed the rewind button, my heart skipped not one, but two beats. With a hurling puff of smoke and the blink of an eye, I was outside the cave again, but the atmosphere had transformed. I could hear hypnotic chanting and I nervously followed the sounds.“Excuse me, do you know where the Waka Pichu tribe is?” I asked bravely.A man with a surprisingly friendly demeanour (for someone with such a tall and powerful stature) came forward and told me they were the Waka Pichu tribe and asked me how they could help. As I contemplated my next move, I noticed the gaunt and wailing children longing for food and it dawned on me why they needed the ivory; the Waka Pichu were poor.At that moment, an idea hit me like a large hail stone. What if I could give them something more valuable than ivory so they wouldn’t need to poach the elephants? The only thing I had to trade was the gold but that was for me! Once again, my mind replayed the elephant’s lonely face, and I knew what I had to do. My pockets and heart were both feeling lighter as I returned to the time machine and said a quick prayer for the elephants to be saved.When I got back the sun was shining gleefully, and the African Forest Elephants were thudding around freely. Mission accomplished! Suddenly, I felt a playful tickle and an elephant’s trunk was stroking my back. It was almost as if he knew I had saved him! I guess what they say is true: an elephant never forgets!I reached back into my pocket and pulled out a glistening gold necklace…you didn’t think I would give all of it away, did you?

Commended stories

The Only One Left

High March

Runner up in the Years 3 & 4 category

"Backwards" or "Forwards" it said on the glittering dial."Does it really mean backwards or forwards in time? That can't be true. Anyway, even if it is, I'm getting out of here!" Lettice thought to herself.From the outside, it had looked like an ordinary rocky cave but inside, colours took over the cave like a whole new world of imagination. It looked like paint, but Lettice
knew it couldn't be because this was a time machine that she had discovered during her walk along the cold autumn beach.
Lettice slowly backed away from the dial, trying to get out of the time machine. But what she didn't see was the slippery rock that her foot landed on. Whoosh! She slid
backwards, her foot kicking the lever to "Forwards".
Lettice's eyes popped open. She was lying on the ground. She crawled towards the entrance of the cave and peered out. "Where am I?" she said, worried. All she could see were trembling volcanoes, grey treeless mountains, and giant cracks in the ground. And strangest of all - no people. Suddenly, a dinosaur emerged from behind a boulder. It took one look at Lettice and started clomping towards her. She started to run, her muddy trainers squelching in the earth. Lettice realised that she couldn't outrun the dinosaur so she clambered into a ditch and scrunched herself into a ball.She could hear her heart thumping in her chest but no sign of the dinosaur. After about ten minutes, she started to feel relieved but her happiness faded when the dinosaur's humungous head peered at her."What are you doing?" said the dinosaur in a sassy tone of voice."I'm hiding from you!" said Lettice, surprised. "No offence", Lettice added."Offence taken," said the dinosaur."Anyway, how can you talk? I didn't know dinosaurs could talk.""They can't. But I'm a robot.""A robot? What? Where am I? What year is it?" asked Lettice."It's 2144, obvs!" said the dinosaur."That would mean I'm 129 years old!" exclaimed Lettice. "Have you seen my mum?”"No" said the dinosaur. "There are no people here.""Why not?""The robots took over the world a hundred years ago."Lettice felt devastated. She couldn't believe the words that had just come out of the dinosaur's mouth. Tears dripped down her cheeks. The dinosaur took his hand and stroked her hair gently."Wait!" she shouted. "I've got to warn everyone.""I can't let you do that," growled the dinosaur, fiercely. Lettice knew that she had to get to the cave and into the time machine."Hey, isn't that an ice cream van?" said Lettice, pointing behind the dinosaur.The dinosaur turned and Lettice began to run. She could see the cave, a tiny grey dot in the distance. Running as fast as she could, she kept her eyes on the cave and didn't look back at the dinosaur, which had just realised she had escaped.The dinosaur was catching up with every booming step he took. Lettice reached the cave, but when she looked inside, her jaw fell open...The time machine was gone.

Commended stories

The Secret of a National Heritage

Pembridge Hall School

Runner up in the Years 3 & 4 category

Emma hadn’t meant to wander into the mysterious cave. She’d just been bored waiting for her dad to come back with the Stonehenge tickets, and her mum and brother to return from the gift shop. She squinted at the big black metal clock on the ground in front of her. It had two buttons, one black and one blue. The black one said, ‘Travel 120 years into the past’, and the blue one said, ‘Travel 120 years into the future’. She immediately pressed the black button, and there was a flash of light, and then darkness, and then broad, bright daylight.Emma ambled out of the cave. She could smell fresh grass, and it was strangely quiet. She couldn’t see any tourists, and the barriers had vanished. But without any hesitation, she recognised the place. It was still Stonehenge! She subtracted 120 from 2024 and realised it must be 1904. It must have been a real time machine! She saw a smartly dressed man in a tweed suit with a waistcoat and tie, and a bushy brown moustache. He saw her and held his hand out.‘Cecil Chubb,’ he said, shaking her hand.‘I’m Emma Jones,’ she replied.‘Are you visiting the Antrobus family too?’ he asked.‘No,’ she said. ‘I’m a tourist. Who are the Antrobus family?’‘You’re not allowed here,’ he said.
‘The family doesn’t allow tourists at the moment.’
‘What do you mean?’ said Emma.
‘Everybody’s allowed to visit Stonehenge. It belongs to the nation, and to English Heritage.’
‘Ah no, Stonehenge belongs to the Antrobus family, not to the nation, or to English Heritage,’ he said.‘Who or what is English Heritage, anyway? I have never heard about them, young lady.’‘It cares for England’s historic sites and allows us to visit them,’ said Emma.‘Well, it sounds a good idea to me,’ he replied, ‘because the Antrobus family just lets people chisel and destroy the stones.’ He pointed to the great, noble stones. Emma saw fresh marks on them where they had been chipped away.‘Look, those ones are almost falling over,’ he added, pointing to some that had been propped up with wooden planks. Emma gasped. Her blood went cold.‘Someone must do something!’ she exclaimed.‘I agree,’ he said, ‘but I don’t think the Antrobus family want to give it to the nation.’‘Then someone good-hearted like you should buy Stonehenge from them, and give it to the nation yourself,’ she said boldly.‘You have a point, my dear young lady,’ he said warmly. ‘Thank you for convincing me. Well, goodbye Emma, and please do call me Cecil.’‘Goodbye Cecil,’ she said, and ran like the wind to the cave.When she reached the time machine, she looked back once more at the stones, and pressed the blue button. She saw a flash of light, then darkness, then broad, bright daylight once again. As she walked out of the cave to rejoin her family, she passed a big information sign with the history of Stonehenge on it. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a black and white photograph of a familiar face, with a familiar bushy brown moustache. She smiled to herself and walked back towards her family.