A North-East school is celebrating the success of its head boy whose story has reached the final of the prestigious BBC Radio 2 500 Words Competition.
Benjamin French, a pupil at Barnard Castle Preparatory School, is in the final 25 for his age group, 10-13, with his story, Clot and the Antibody Army.
Next week he has a royal appointment at Windsor Castle for the final, hosted by the Duchess of Cornwall, when the winners will be announced in a live breakfast show broadcast with presenter Zoe Ball supported by pop stars, celebrities and well-known children’s authors.
Last year 138,000 children entered the competition. Benjamin heard earlier this year then he had made the last 5,000, then last month was told he had made the final.
His story was inspired by a bad cold, an early night and some medicine.
Benjamin, who is 10, explained: “I asked my Mum how my body works and how it fights off the bugs and she explained how night time is when my body repairs itself and when the dreaded bug is defeated.
“The next morning it came to me that a battle in my body would be a great plot for a story. I’d entered 500 Words before so thought I’d give it another go.”
His put his wordplay skills to work to create his story featuring Corpuscle Clot, who uses artery fire, a bacteria blaster and germinators to defeat the haemogoblins.
“Once I’d got my inspiration, it only took about two days to write and since I had the plot so quickly it was surprisingly easy to complete. It was much harder to cut down to 500 words because I got carried away and ended up with 850 – it took a whole day to cut down.
“I can’t wait to go to Windsor Castle. It’s the day after my birthday and will be the best birthday present ever!”
Benjamin, who lives in Cumbria, thinks his story might have an additional purpose – helping children to understand how medicine and our bodies works, and to not be frightened of taking medication.
He added: “My Mum read to me from when I was first born and I started writing my own books in Year 1. I love writing because I’m transported to another world where, in my imagination, anything can happen.
“I’ve lost count of how many people have congratulated me. It feels really amazing to be inspiring other children to write and hopefully they will enter the competition next year.”
For his headmistress Laura Turner, Benjamin’s success is proof once again of the might of the written word.
“Reading is absolutely crucial; it’s the basic building block of education. I’ve read to my two daughters since they were in the womb. It creates a bond between parents and their children, children and their teachers, which is why we have story time at the end of the day.
“Reading impacts on writing, on creativity, it stimulates questions, reasoning and thinking. One of the things we are seeking to do with our school library is to create cosy little pods where children can curl up with a good book and develop a true love of reading – so no pressure Benjamin, but the top prize of 500 books for the school would be timely!
“We always encourage pupils to enter the BBC Radio 2 500 Words competition and around 30 did this year. Benjamin’s success is an amazing achievement as one of the few entries from the North East of England ever to reach the final. There has been such a buzz around school since we heard that one of our school family is off to Windsor Castle for the final on June 14 and his achievement truly has inspired our pupils for the future.”
Benjamin’s story can be heard at: