With genuinely great difficulty, I have judged the Ask Nicola Morgan competition. *wipes brow* I know judges often say the results were really close but honestly I had NOT expected it to be this hard! It was not helped by the fact that I had done all the judging, written and scheduled this announcement post and then discovered that one entry (I’d printed them all out) had slipped down the side of a piece of furniture so I’d missed it. More to the point, it ended up being one of the winners, so I had to re-write the post!
Thank you so much and congratulations to ALL – really, ALL – the schools that entered. I loved your questions. I found them all revealing, sometimes emotional, often intriguing, always engaging. As you know, I’ve already been answering them (put Ask Nicola Morgan in the search box at the top of this page for all the answers) and I will carry on until I’ve answered at least one from everyone, and often more than one. Even schools where I’ve already answered one might well get another one later.
Before I announce my decisions, let me say something very important. This is supposed to be a competition for the “best” questions but that’s a nonsense, because there’s no such thing as an objectively “best” question. It comes down to my personal choice and you couldn’t really know how that would go. ALL your questions are valid because they are things you want to know and therefore they are all good questions.
There were, however, some ways in which I could judge your questions. For example, good questions have a clear intention, so I could see what the questioner was getting at. I’d asked for questions to be specific rather than too broad and general. I liked it when the three questions were varied rather than similar, so if you’d asked some questions that were too similar, I deducted points for that, even though each question might have been wonderful.
I think what I most liked was when questions showed a real understanding of what the important issues are, whether regarding well-being (Positively Teenage) or life online (The Teenage Guide to Life Online.) Then I gave extra points for originality and variety.
But it was still very difficult so please, if you are not named as a winner here, do NOT think that you didn’t ask great questions. ALL your questions were valuable and valid and every school will have at least two questions answered on my website, not the one that I originally promised.
I won’t hang around because I know you want to know. So, here goes…
Gold prize and overall winner:
THE LONDON ORATORY SCHOOL’S “3rd FORM CARNEGIE SHADOWERS”
Well done to all of you! Your questions were varied, challenging and interesting. I also know that these questions were asked by individual students – I’m assuming they then voted for which ones to ask me – so they have real ownership of their questions. You asked:
- “Is social media affecting my GCSEs?” (I answered it here.)
- “What do you think of the long-term, global effect of social media on today’s teenagers when they are middle aged?” (I’ll answer that soon – it’s surprisingly easy to answer but interesting anyway.)
- “A lot of people say social media is particularly good for the social lives and happiness of introverts and socially awkward people. Do you agree?” (I’ll be answering that, too.)
The silver award goes to:
HAGGERSTON SCHOOL, HACKNEY, FROM “DR PARRIS AND THE AMAZING STUDENT LIBRARIANS”
Very well-thought-out questions, which I’m guessing were constructed by the group (together with Dr Parris) deciding the final, very polished wording, so a real communal effort. Polished wording wasn’t one of the criteria I used – what I liked about these questions was the range and the depth. You asked:
- “Aside from your own, are there any books (fiction or non-fiction) you would recommend young people to read to help them make sense of growing up in the 21st century?” (Highly original and interesting question. I’m going to have to think about this. I may be some time…)
- “We have a lot of stressed students thinking about their GCSEs at the moment: do you have any advice on how students and staff can support their well-being during exam period?” (Unfortunately, I’m a bit late getting to this one so I’ll save the answer till January 2019! I do have a lot of advice on this already, though: put “exams” into the search box at the top of this page.)
- “Do you think students should be allowed to bring their own devices to school and, if so, what rules should be put in place to encourage responsible behaviour?” (Excellent question! I’ll get to it as soon as I can.)
The bronze award goes to:
Two schools! I simply couldn’t choose between them. They will split the books from my publishers but will both receive the set of my own books, as well as the posters and Positively Teenage mug. They are:
WOLVERHAMPTON GRAMMAR SCHOOL’S BOOK CLUB
Great questions and a genuinely difficult choice between you and the London Oratory School. You asked:
- “If someone had given you Blame My Brain as a teenager, what single positive change would you have made?” (I’ll definitely be answering this!)
- “Do you think your parents understood you as a teenager?” (This, too!)
- “In our Book Club, we discussed how healthy social media is. What advice would you give someone to help them overcome negative comments on social media?” (This is quite similar to some other school’s questions so I might combine them.)
GLENTHORNE HIGH SCHOOL’S BOOKLINGS BOOK CLUB
Although your questions were all on social media, they were still all different. You asked:
- “What is your advice to teens who feel pressured by social media to own things like an iPhone, PS4, Xbox and other expensive items?” (I’ll answer this.)
- “What is the best way to tell your parents about things that worry you on social media if you are scared they will judge you or get angry at you for asking because they know these things will probably never happen to you?” (I hope to answer this.)
- “Do you think teen mental health would improve if social media was banned or vanished completely?” (Brilliant question. I answered it here.)
That’s not all. I also want to give some “highly commended” and “star question” awards.
Two schools get a Highly Commended (and will win two books):
These schools only just missed out on the bronze award. They caused me a LOT of difficulty in the judging!
Thorp Academy, with questions from Stella and Jasmine in Y7 X1a. I answered all their questions here.
Biddenham International School and Sports College, with questions from Ms Morris’s library group. I answered their first question here and will be answering their other two later.
Individual star questions came from:
Kings Langley Secondary School – “How can I stop myself binge-watching TV and clickbait videos?” I liked this question because it demonstrates that young people already recognise that they are being hooked and want some practical advice about it.
Thorp Academy – I thought Jasmine’s question was brilliant: “My Grandma says one of my Aunties was a ‘real’ teenager while the other was no trouble at all. Some teens seem to sail through adolescence and others really struggle. Do you think there’s an argument to say that stereotyping teenagers actually makes their lives worse and that each teenager should be considered individually?” Answered here.
Fearnhill Y8 students: “What if being me excludes me?” Really poignant and to the point. I answered it here. It was very similar to a question from Woolmer Hill School’s Y10 and Y11 library users: “What are your thoughts on people changing themselves for their friends?” So that is a Star Question, too.
How to claim your prizes
The staff who entered the comp from the four winning schools – London Oratory, Haggerston School, Wolverhampton Grammar School and Glenthorne High School – need to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org
I would also like to send a free book to all the other schools mentioned on this page: Thorp Academy, Biddenham International, Kings Langley, Fearnhill and Woolmer Hill. Please could you each choose one of my books and email me with your choice?
I am so sorry I can’t send books to every school that took part. Please believe me: I loved your questions and am really enjoying answering them.
I’m so glad I ran this competition. Yes, it was a lot of work but it really got students and adults thinking. I loved the comments from the adults who submitted the questions: it’s clearly been a really eye-opening and heart-warming exercise for them. Please do keep coming back to read the answers and do ask me any other questions even outside the competition!
Congratulations and thank you to everyone! I am now exhausted. Need to go and pick some strawberries to relax.