Winchester’s Gracie Harding named National Young Writer of the Year

Gracie Harding, an 11 year old from Winchester, has prevailed over more than 10,000 entries from across the UK to be crowned the National Young Writer of the year with her story, ‘Happy Never After’. The presentation took place at Westgate School in Winchester, where best-selling author, Lauren Child, surprised Gracie with her prize of a trophy, a family trip to Disneyland Paris and £500 worth of books for her school.

Gracie HardingThe annual competition is organised by tuition provider, Explore Learning and this year’s theme was ‘The Mash-up’, where children were challenged to write a 500 word story where two genres collide.  Judged by best-selling author of the Ruby Redfort, Charlie & Lola and Clarice Bean series of books, Lauren Child, children from all over the UK put their writing skills to the test in an effort to be crowned the nation’s best young writer.

It was Gracie’s story that came out on top. Happy Never After tells the story of a princess who has waited decades for one of three brothers to come and wake her with a kiss… Only she’s already awake and after her prince battles to rescue her she has other ideas.

Lauren Child says: “As I read the entries, what I could see in them was the voices and the personalities of the people who’d written them and that’s really, really important.

“The reason I chose this story is because this person wrote a story with pace, it moved along and took you with it and was beautifully constructed. It’s very hard to write such a short story with a beginning, middle and end without losing the thread.

“Gracie’s story is a really fun story, it’s got real personality to it. Most of all I loved the very unexpected but completely perfect final line.”

Winner, Gracie Harding says: “I never believed that I could win. It still seems unreal. I love to read and do so constantly. I used to be terrible at writing stories until I came to Westgate school where I actually started to enjoy it. I hope to compete next year with high aims and an even better story!”

The competition launched eight years ago and has seen hundreds of thousands of children submit their entries. The team at Explore Learning are repeatedly overwhelmed by the imagination displayed.

Carey Ann Dodah, Head of Education at Explore Learning says: “We were once again blown away with both the quality and quantity of entries for the National Young Writers’ Awards. The competition grows and grows and we’re thrilled it has inspired so many children to get writing!

“This year’s ‘mash-up’ theme brought out some brilliantly creative entries, it was a pleasure to read through some of them. The decision can’t have been easy but the winning entry was of the highest quality, many congratulations to Gracie!”

Paul Nicholson, Headteacher at Westgate School in Winchester says:  “We were thrilled to welcome Lauren Child to our school on Wednesday 22 June.  A number of our pupils had entered the National Young Writers’ Awards, a writing competition with over 10,000 entries.  Our inspirational English department had encouraged our pupils to enter the competition and we were delighted to be informed that nine pupils had received prizes with Gracie Harding, in year seven, being selected by Lauren as the competition’s overall winner.”

Explore Learning has 120 centres located across the country providing English and maths tuition to children aged five to 14.

To coincide with this year’s award, Explore Learning did some research into the nation’s dream fictional characters to star in a ‘mash-up’. The UK decided that a combination of Harry Potter and Robin Hood is something they’d love to see, alongside a story about Jon Snow with Alice in Wonderland. The research also revealed that a huge 35% of the UK read every day for pleasure.

For more information on Explore Learning and the National Young Writers’ Awards please visit