Premier League Writing Stars

Written by: Jonathan Douglas | Published:
Reading role-models: Manchester United footballer Juan Mata visits a primary school in the city as part of the Premier League Writing Stars initiative (Image: Alex Wallace Photography)

The Premier League Writing Stars competition offers schools the chance to harness the power of football to transform your pupils’ poetry writing. Jonathan Douglas explains more

Whether you’re a football fanatic or you don’t know the first thing about the offside rule, as a teacher you will be more than aware of the important role football plays in many of your pupils’ lives.

Teachers often tell us that they never see children more animated or engaged as when they’re talking about football. So the big question is: how can you channel this energy and enthusiasm into your pupils’ work?

For the past 20 years, the National Literacy Trust has developed programmes, resources and competitions that tap in to children’s love of the beautiful game in order to get them excited about reading and writing. We have seen first-hand how bringing football into the classroom levels the playing field, in particular, for students who are falling behind in literacy – not just boys, but girls as well.

Being able to read and write well from an early age sets children up for success in school and later life. As our research shows, when children get the chance to write about something they’re passionate about, they become better writers as they tend to write more often and also try out lots of different writing styles. This is where football comes in.

We are really excited to be working with the Premier League to inspire children to try their hand at poetry by harnessing the power of football, through the new Premier League Writing Stars competition. The competition aims to inspire primary school children in England and Wales to write their own poems about resilience, working hard and never giving up.

We have developed a fantastic range of key stage 1 and 2 teaching resources, posters, videos and activities to help get your pupils excited about the competition. You can download them for free from the Premier League Primary Stars website. Here’s a taster activity to get you started:

  • Tell your pupils that they are going to be entering a poetry competition to try and win some exciting football prizes.
  • Explain that pupils will be writing a poem about resilience – why it is really important to give things another go, even when it seems like what they are trying to do is too hard.
  • Ask pupils about their favourite sports and sporting personalities. Then ask them to explain what the Premier League is, which teams play in it and who their favourite footballers are.
  • Ask pupils to think about what qualities their favourite sports stars need to be able to succeed; brainstorm ideas and write words on the board that relate to resilience. If the word resilience is too hard for your class, replace it with alternative phrases such as "keep going" or "never give up".
  • Read William E Hickson’s poem, Try, Try Again, out loud in class; you can also print off a poster of the poem from the Premier League Primary Stars website or show pupils the advert where Premier League stars read the poem out loud whilst doing football tricks in the classroom!
  • Ask pupils to share their own experiences of resilience and continue to add words to the board. Get pupils to use their experiences and the words on the board as a springboard to start their poems.

By entering the competition, your pupils will have the chance to win some fantastic prizes – including an invitation to a special awards ceremony, the chance to have their poems read aloud by a Premier League star, and a school visit from a children’s author and the Premier League Trophy.

What’s more, your pupils’ entries will be judged by Chelsea legend and children’s writer, Frank Lampard, and Everton star, Yannick Bolasie. I’ll also be on the judging panel alongside the wonderful children’s laureate and creator of the Charlie and Lola series, Lauren Child, as well as Caleb Femi, Young People’s Laureate for London.

Now all that’s left is to head to the website, download your free teaching resources, and inspire your pupils to write their poems on the theme of resilience. I can’t wait to read them!

  • Jonathan Douglas is director of the National Literacy Trust.

Further information

The Premier League Writing Stars competition is open until the end of the autumn term on Friday 22 December 2017. For more information on how to enter, visit and

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