The winners of a writing competition for bilingual children and young people across East Sussex have been awarded.

The Val Larkin Award Event 2020

The sun peaks through the towering trees at Hartfield Square in Eastbourne and balloons dance in the wind as bilingual students are welcomed to a safe award ceremony for The Val Larkin Award 2020.

The Val Larkin Award was created to honour both the legacy of an English as an Additional Language Service (EALS) team member and the education of bilingual students throughout East Sussex.

Isabella, one of the youngest winners at the award ceremony, stands proudly with her Val Larkin Award First Place Certificate.

Isabella, one of the youngest winners at the award ceremony, stands proudly with her Val Larkin Award First Place Certificate.

The event is designed to bring families together to celebrate their children’s writing with a safely distanced award presentation.

The EALS team hopes the event encourages children to understand the value of honouring their first and learned language: “Many children don’t get a chance to use their first language other than in the home, so as a service we want to give a positive message to them that reading and writing are wonderful skills to have in all languages.”

Val Larkin’s Husband Gerry Larkin opened the event for the 17 participants and their families with some encouraging words: “We are here to celebrate writing and to celebrate Val… She would be honoured to see this. This is about everyone involved here today!”

The winners

There was a total of 21 entries for the award, six of which were awarded in three different categories for first and second place. The categories were for the age groups 5-7 years old, 8-9 year olds and 10-13 year olds.

First place winners received £20, second place winners received £15 and highly commended winners received £5 for their entries.

A wide variety of creative short stories and poems were entered, including stories about different animals, a letter to Cristiano Ronaldo, a thank-you to the NHS and more!

One of the first-place winners, Teja, was “really, really happy” and she couldn’t believe she’d won first place in the 8-9-year-old category for her short story entry, “I Like Summer.” (Main picture).

Jennifer with her award.

Jennifer with her award.

Teja wrote in English for her story and included a sentence at the beginning and end in her first language, Lithuanian.

The EALS team chose her story for its uplifting, positive message which is a great thing to celebrate during these challenging times of Covid-19.

Jennifer, another participant, was also awarded with a highly commended certificate for her entry in the 8-9-year-old category.

Jennifer’s story is a Spanish version of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Her favourite part about the competition was building her confidence in learning English and receiving an award. She was inspired to enter the competition because she loves to write and she wants to make her parents proud.

Gerry, Val’s husband, is honoured to witness the positive effects the award has and expressed how great it was to see it give children and young people a sense of confidence in their learning.

From the beginning, Gerry was behind the idea of Val’s colleagues creating the award. Gerry said: “They found that Val had so much to offer… and when you are taken away too soon, that’s it. So, there was a need there to have something to keep the legacy going, so that’s how the award came about.

“Val always did extra things for students in the shadows and I knew the value of what she was doing, so to know that it wasn’t going unnoticed is really great.”

Gerry Larkin.

Gerry Larkin.


By Danielle Quijada.