TWO students from the same school have won a prestigious international writing competition after putting themselves in the place of pilgrims on an arduous Jacobean walk.

A special delegation from Spain visited St John’s Catholic School and Sixth Form, Bishop Auckland, to present prizes to Year 10 student Lucy Scott and Year 9 pupil Effie Hughes.

While they were there, as a surprise to the Spanish officials, a commemorative plaque was unveiled cementing relations between the school and the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrimage.

Every year hundreds of student from the school, part of the Bishop Hogarth Catholic Education Trust, take part in a competition to write a formal letter from the point of view of a pilgrim making the historic journey of faith.

Around 200 entered in 2021 and 100 have already completed their stories for this year ahead of the competition even being launched in Europe.

The Camino de Santiago is a network of pilgrims’ ways leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great, in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, north western Spain, where tradition holds that the remains of the apostle are buried.

The competition attracts tens of thousands of entries from all over the world which are judged on the quality of language and creativity of writing.

Lucy said: “I am overwhelmed. It is amazing to receive a prize when so many people enter. I never thought I would win. I am taking Spanish at GCSE and I’m going to see where that takes me. That is the exciting part about it, that you can visit the country and speak their language.

“I tried to imagine myself in the situation of an ancient pilgrim and the hardships and suffering they would have had to endure. I love writing and it is an option I’m considering. I love the fact you can be sitting at your desk at home but can be transport in my mind to different parts of the world.”

Effie added: “I feel so happy to win from so many entries, particularly as I take French rather than Spanish.”

Spanish deputy Antonio Leira said: “I’d like to congratulate the school and the students for participating and the teachers for ensuring they have this opportunity every year. I’d also like to recognise the quality and the number of entries submitted by St John’s.

“What you are doing is even more important this year because you are promoting culture against a backdrop of a pandemic and war in Europe, which we must always keep in our minds. You are amazing students and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Curriculum Research and Development Lead Philip Robertson said: “The number of entries was unbelievable but the competition offered a different aspect to their studies during the pandemic lockdown.”

Head teacher Lisa Byron added: “It’s a great experience for the students because it promotes cultural links with the country and extends the children’s knowledge beyond the usual tourist areas of Spain.”