This page will be updated periodically, to share how we are navigating the current public health crisis and responding to changing circumstances.
Last updated 19 May 2020
Since March 2020, measures to tackle the COVID-19 global pandemic have inevitably resulted in unprecedented disruption to young people’s education and quality of life. In the circumstances, swift responses by teachers, parents and providers, coming together to plug the sudden gap left by closed schools, have been amazing. We’re glad to have been able to contribute to this national effort too, commissioning our writers to create free online workshops.
Through the upheaval and uncertainty of this ongoing public health crisis, First Story’s mission seems more urgent than ever. We must equip young people experiencing disadvantage with the skills and confidence to thrive in education and life. We are committed to do everything we can to support First Story students across England — as well as their teachers and our partner schools — right now, through the eventual recovery process, and in the post-pandemic world beyond.
We know our flagship Young Writers programme changes young people’s lives. We are actively engaging our stakeholders, partners and supporters to make sure the benefits of our transformative provision remain accessible to those who need us most, long into the future.
How we’ve already adapted
Completion of 2019-20 programmes
When schools closed in late March, First Story’s classroom-based workshops were coming to an end. In the spring, students’ focus shifts to editing work they’ve already produced, for inclusion in their anthology.
One of our first priorities, after ensuring everyone’s wellbeing, was to reassure our writers that everyone would be paid in full for residencies — including any interrupted by the lockdown.
Thanks to the heroic efforts of our committed writers and lead teachers, who have contacted individual students to chase work, we remain on schedule to produce a printed anthology for almost every participating school this academic year, with only a small number delayed. We’ll publish at least 43 new anthologies during the summer.
We regret we won’t be able to recognise the achievements of this year’s cohort with our traditional summer book launch events, but we intend to properly celebrate all of this year’s anthologies with our schools, as soon as it is safe to do so.
Summer 2020 residential course
Every July, up to 16 First Story students who’ve shown great potential in their writing, are offered fully-funded places on a week-long writing retreat at the Arvon centre in rural Yorkshire.
This year, in collaboration with project funders teamArchie, we’re excited to be able to provide an innovative digital alternative: an online creative writing and mentoring programme led by experienced professional writers Francesca Beard, Russ Litten and Irfan Master.
20 young people from across the country will come together, virtually, to participate in a fun, week-long programme mixing live writing workshops, group social activities and one-to-one tutorials. We will ensure all participants have access to internet data and tech support throughout.
Writing produced during this year’s residential will be celebrated and shared digitally, as well published in a printed anthology.
National Writing Day 24 June 2020
With our partner organisations from across the literacy sector, we are driving ahead with this year’s National Writing Day celebration on 24 June, shifting the focus to digital engagement and online participation.
Leading up to the day, alongside our partners we are building a bank of free teaching and learning resources, to support young people to write creatively at home.
First Story will be contributing nine original, feature-length tutorials to the National Writing Day resource bank.
Since the lockdown began, we’ve been encouraging young people to share their writing with us via social channels, using #writefromhome — and we’ve already seen tons of exciting digital engagement.
Preparing for the new academic year
Alongside many other voices, we’ve expressed our concern about the long-term impacts on young people, particularly those already experiencing socio-economic disadvantages, of extended school closures and ‘locked-down’ lives.
Needless to say, we also support teachers’ right to work in safe environments. We are currently talking to schools about how best to deliver our flagship Young Writers programme next year. Innovation and collaboration will be key. Having adapted successfully both for National Writing Day and our summer residential, armed with new ideas, skills and solutions, we will be ready to provide what our schools, teachers and students need.
The students we serve won’t only need extra support to catch-up academically. The scale of disruption threatens their mental health too, and they’ll likely need support to process their feelings about what has happened. Quality enrichment provision will be crucial for this. First Story’s offer will be more important and valuable than ever.
Get in touch with us in your area:
Ways to support
The pandemic has impacted the finances of charities everywhere. It’s going to be a difficult year for many organisations and individuals. Fundraising is challenging at any time, but we expect this to be our toughest year yet. Whether you’re a personal supporter or a more formal grant funder, we will need to ask for your support during 2020/21, if you can give it.
Engaging in a creative practice helps build character and the cultural capital proven to be vital to future success. Writing also helps us process our feelings and make sense of the world around us: it gives us our voice and provides comfort and healing after trauma. What First Story provides to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds isn’t a luxury; now, more than ever, it is a necessity.
If you are able to invest in transforming young people’s lives, please consider a gift today to support First Story’s vitally important programmes.
If you have the capacity to support our work with a larger donation and/or you’re able to make a deeper commitment, please get in touch to explore how you could make a significant difference. Thank you.