Schools asked to pen poems about friendship in festive competition

Schools across the North West are being invited to participate in an annual poetry competition to highlight the importance of friendship this festive period.

This year’s competition will be judged by the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham; Simone Spray, Chief Executive of Manchester-based mental health charity, 42nd Street, alongside Simon Black, Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid England, Professor Dame Alison Peacock, Chief Executive of The Chartered College of Teaching and Diane Modahl, MBE – Co-Founder & CEO Diane Modahl Foundation / Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist.

The initiative is open to primary school students and those in year seven at secondary level. It is organised by Altrincham-based teaching school, The Alliance for Learning and is in its fifth year. 

Loneliness is more likely to affect young people today than older age groups according to ONS research.* The recent study found almost 10% of individuals aged 16-24 feel ‘always or often’ lonely, the highest proportion of any age group.

Lisa Fathers, Director of Teaching School at The Alliance for Learning, part of Bright Futures Educational Trust, said: “As the festive season approaches, for many, thoughts turn to spending quality time with friends and family. However, in reality, there are many reasons why people can feel isolated or may not find it as easy to form friendships, with an increasing number of younger people feeling this way.

“Christmas can be a particularly lonely time for those that don’t have lots of friends so we wanted to encourage students to explore this theme, at the same time encouraging them to look at ways they can make new friends, evaluate their own relationships and support their existing friends.”

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “I’ve judged this competition before and each year participating schools raise awareness of an important topic. Schools sit at the heart of our communities and are perfectly placed to encourage young people to think about issues such as friendship and loneliness, and how these issues might affect their local communities and what they can do to do have a positive impact. I cannot wait to see the entries – I’m expecting a very high standard as usual, and the challenge of judging to be tough as a result.”

Simone Spray, Chief Executive of 42nd Street Manchester, said: “Friendship is one of the most valuable relationships we have and it is crucial for good mental health and wellbeing. There are many ways of talking about friendship and feeling connected and supported. I can’t wait to read the entries and learn from the children and young people across Greater Manchester.”

Schools across the Teaching School Alliance are being asked to explore what friendship means to them submitting entries by 12 noon on Monday 2 December with the winners being announced on Friday 6 December. Prizes include book vouchers worth £25, £15 and £10.

For more information visit:


Alliance for Learning
Cavendish Road, Bowdon
Altrincham WA14 2NL
Proud to part of the Bright Futures Education Trust