Modern Languages Schools Essay Prize

The Department of Languages and Cultures has been running a very successful Schools Essay Prize Competition for a number of years.

2019 Essay Prize (Years 12 and 13) and Creative Project Prize (Years 10 and 11)

This year we introduced a creative project prize for GCSE-level students, in addition to the essay prize. The topic for both categories was ‘Learning Languages to Build Bridges’.

We had a fantastic response from schools, with 35 entries for the Essay Prize and 15 students entering the Creative Project Prize. These included entries in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Chinese. The academic panel were very impressed with the ability and enthusiasm for languages that was displayed by these submissions.

The following prizes were awarded:

Years 10 and 11:

  • Winner: Emily Edwards, Erin Cowley, Asha Wilson, Sir Johnathan Northern College
  • Runner-up: Charles Maddison, Abingdon School
  • Runner-up: Philip Yanakov, Westminster School

The judges really enjoyed the music and video composition created by Emily Edwards, Erin Cowley and Asha Wilson, and were impressed by their language skills, musical ability and joyful creativity.

Years 12 and 13:

  • Winner: Lizzy Nightingale, Hills Road Sixth Form College, French
  • Runner-up: Olivia Walsh, Lymm Sixth Form, Spanish
  • Highly commended: Isabella Hind, Matthew Arnold School, German
  • Highly commended: Virginia Baldan, Westminster School, Italian
  • Highly commended: Nuo Miao, Downe House School, Chinese


Lizzy Nightingale was awarded first place prize in the Essay Prize for her work, which was praised as ‘quite lyrical’ and commended for using complex grammatical structures with an accuracy and ability typical of university-level work.

Runner-up, Olivia Walsh, also had her work highly praised by the judges. Her teacher, Karen Baldwin, commented: “We are really pleased that Olivia was awarded this prize. She is not only a gifted linguist, but a real asset to the languages department at Lymm High School, offering tutorials to Y11 and 10 pupils as well as volunteering for any other MFL events.”

The Department of Languages and Cultures would like to congratulate all of the prize winners for the high quality of their entries and thank all students and teachers for their involvement.

2018 Essay Prize

The topic for the 2018 essay prize was ‘Learn languages to speak to the future’, we received a staggering 45 entries from schools across the UK and as far away as Mozambique! We were highly impressed with the linguistic and academic standard of the submissions received. Congratulations to everyone!

Given the high number of entries, we were able to award a 1st prize, two runners-up and two 'special commendations':

  • 1st prize: Catherine Cowen (French), Morecambe Bay Academy
  • Runner-up: Elizabeth Gür (German), Runshaw College
  • Runner-up: Grace Lear (Spanish), Oldham Sixth Form College
  • Special commendation: Ariana Philips (Spanish), Haberdasher Aske's School for Girls
  • Special commendation: James Somper (German), Pate's Grammar School

Catherine Cowen's essay "Le secret de l’avenir est le passé" impressed the academic judging panel because of its original approach, use of critical sources, academic rigour and sophisticated command of French. Congratulations to everyone who submitted an essay! We were delighted to read so many original and well-written essays by keen young linguists.

2017 Essay Prize

The topic for the 2017 essay prize was 'Languages and Globalization’. Students were able to interpret it as freely as they wished in a 500-word essay in the language of their choice.

Isabella Schiavo of Oldham Sixth Form College was awarded first prize for writing an erudite, analytical and well-researched essay in Spanish.

Isabella’s essay was praised for evidencing a very good command of Spanish, particularly of complex grammar and sophisticated idiomatic expression, as well as the excellent academic research skills she demonstrated together with sensitive analysis of a challenging topic.

Grace Martin from King’s High School, Warwick, was awarded second prize for her essay in German, and the third prize went to Alexandra MacNaughton from Putney High School for her essay in Spanish.

Isabella attended an Easter School run by the Department on April 4th, where she was presented with her certificate and prize, a £100 book voucher, and together with other A-level students from across Lancashire, attended lectures and taster sessions on the study of languages and film.

2014 Essay Prize

The topic for 2014 was 'Foreign Cultures'. Students were able to interpret it as freely as they wish in a 500-word essay in the language of their choice.

Stephen Cole of Cockermouth School was awarded first prize for his outstanding essay ‘L’appréciation culturelle ou l’appropriation culturelle’.

Stephen's essay was praised for its clarity, coherence and linguistic quality.

Tamsin Johnson from Cranbrook School was awarded second prize for her essay in German, and the third prize went to Rosie Fraser from Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School for her essay in Spanish.

Rosie Fraser’s teacher, Miss Kate Whitehouse, said, ‘We were delighted that our student came third, and it was good to see that she gets the same feedback from your colleagues as from us. She used the essay as a point of discussion in one of her interviews for a university where she secured a place, so whether the entrants win or not, these kinds of motivational opportunities can go a long way!’