This summer, pupils were invited to enter the inaugural Emanuel Summer Essay Prize competition which was established to inspire and recognise the academic efforts and interests of pupils outside of the curriculum.  The theme this year was hope, which pupils could respond to in any way they felt appropriate, and our illustrious panel of judges very much appreciated the high-quality writing and uplifting messages of the many essays received.

The competition was judged by three former Emanuel pupils who have distinguished themselves in academic fields. Charlie Barty-King is currently studying for a doctorate at the Centre for Doctoral Training in Precision Engineering at the University of Cambridge. Dr Tim Hands is Headmaster of Winchester College, and an English teacher who has published works himself, including on the poetry of Thomas Hardy. Thirdly, Dr Emrys Jones is currently Senior Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture at King’s College London.

The Lower School Essay Prize

Winner – Milo Drese, Y7

Second place – Alice Perry, Y8

Joint third place – Shannon Gorfil, Y8, and Felix Carpenter, Y6

Dr Hands very much enjoyed Milo’s essay, which examined three role models who offer hope: Madu Mmesoma Anthony, who is aspiring to be Nigeria’s first male ballet dancer, Greta Thunberg and HM The Queen. Dr Hands felt that Milo’s essay was ‘the most balanced of the pieces’, which had ‘judgement, balance, clarity and much else’.

Alice Perry’s reflection on Jane Eyre was commended by Dr Hands as ‘genuine, personal – at times quite movingly so.’ He felt it was ‘compelling stuff’ which demonstrated an impressive engagement with this literary classic.

In third place was Shannon Gorfil, about whose abstract and philosophical essay on the nature of hope Dr Hands said ‘I could never manage at her age. I particularly liked the clever and unusual idea that hope is actually something which is double edged.’

Shannon shares third place with Felix Carpenter, who is particularly to be commended as the youngest entrant into the competition with his personal essay on the wide-ranging hopes he has for a bright future.

The Middle School Essay Prize

Winner: Harry Maier, Y10

Joint second place: Clara Tubiermont, Y9, and Jonathan McLean Brown, Y9.

Third place: Ice Dob, Y10

Of the winner, Harry Maier, our judge Charlie Barty-King said, ‘I’ve seen published articles written with less care and understanding.’ Harry’s essay was, he felt, ‘a well-structured, thoughtful and admiringly genuine piece on hope, weaving nuanced opinion, hard research and facts together in a conversational style that is easy to read. I have found the essay hard to critique. Relating contentious current affairs with personal experience, with careful comments on responsibility, and combining both with proper structure and subtle use of adverbs is the sign of an expert piece of writing.’

In joint second place is Clara Tubiermont, with an essay on the role of hope in the future of LGBTQ+ activism which Mr Barty-King felt demonstrated ‘a natural talent for writing’. He particularly impressed by extremely memorable line: “Hope acts as a temporary ‘sugar rush’, a substitute for power until true power can be achieved.”

Sharing second place with Clara is Jonathan McLean-Brown who took a risk with his short story involving a deteriorating father writing to his son which certainly paid off. Mr Barty-King described it as ‘an excellent piece, with impressive execution and very well written.’

Third place is awarded to Ice Dob for an essay on hope in American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, which our judge felt showed Ice to be ‘a great thinker and natural communicator’ who had constructed ‘an exceptional dialogue on a difficult and deep topic, with appropriate nuance, maturity and intellectualism.’

Sixth Form Essay Prize

First Place: Sophie le Gouellec de Schwarz

Second Place: Rosalind Thwaites

Third Place: Rebecca Stirling

Our judge, Dr Emrys Jones, said the following of Sophie’s winning essay: ‘This illuminating essay demonstrates some of the perennial contradictions in human understandings of hope through a close consideration of the Pandora myth. I learned a lot while reading it, and I appreciated its painstaking attention to details of etymology and cultural history. In a shortlist of excellent essays, this one stands out for its careful weighing of opposing ideas, its allowance for a certain amount of confusion and paradox in the Greek myth and in the essence of hope itself.’

About Ros’s second placed essay, Dr Jones said: ‘This essay offers an impressive overview of P. D. James’s use of religious allusion in The Children of Men. There is some excellent close reading of particular passages – I was especially struck by the discussion of the word “experiment” and what it might mean when applied to God’s acts of creation.’

In third place was Rebecca Stirling, whose essay Jones described as a refreshingly upbeat account of social media’s influence on global politics. I was impressed by the range of examples and sources cited throughout.’

Reading the essays led judge Tim Hands to reminisce about his time at Emanuel in the following way:

Thank you very much for asking me to read these essays.  It has been a great pleasure and I have been very impressed by the quality. There used to be a display in Room 21 (if that’s the one on the first floor with the oriel window looking out over the tennis courts and the railway line) of different forms of writing.  It was quite inspirational at the time.  You really learnt a lot from looking at the different writing styles of people in the years above. I was reminded of this experience because these pieces are very much in that tradition of sharing excellent work of different kinds. I think my sister has kept my exercise books from what were then called Form 1 and Form 2. I shan’t be asking her to bring them out – the work would not bear much comparison in this company.

To keep the spirit of sharing such inspirational writing alive, the winning essays will be published in the school magazine later this year, and shared on Firefly, too.  Thank you to all who entered the competition.

Ms Johnson (Assistant Head: Teaching & Learning)