The Bridge

Many pupils in their final years at school are apprehensive about the transition to university or college. Among their concerns are those about written work, and a perception that academic writing is difficult. The Bridge project was conceived by Katie Grant to address these anxieties.

In 2014 the RLF set up a pilot scheme in association with Education Scotland: it placed professional writers in ten schools to give workshops to small groups of students to help them bridge the perceived gap between school and university writing. Following the success of the pilot, the RLF has extended the scheme to work with partner schools across Scotland.

How it Works

  • The writer meets teachers ahead of the Bridge to discuss the workshops and any other matters relating to writing development they want to talk about.
  • Three to five 50 minute sessions take place with a group of up to 12 learners, i.e. up to five workshop sessions on separate days; these may be spaced at intervals convenient for timetabling.
  • Topics covered include structuring, planning, editing, referencing and writing with clarity.
  • Learners come from 5 or 6th years (secondary) and can be of varying abilities and studying different subjects. They may also include those undecided about applying for university.


  • To help prospective students, including those from non-traditional academic backgrounds, make the transition from school writing to university writing.
  • To address general problems with literacy as well as grammar, punctuation, style and essay planning.
  • To introduce learners to or review with them terms which sometimes cause confusion when used by university tutors.
  • To give learners a forum to express in confidence, to an independent professional writer, any concerns they have about their writing.
  • To demystify the world of academia and reduce the apprehension learners often feel about academic writing.

If your school is interested in Bridge sessions, please contact:

Where we have worked

Bridge Fellows

Geoff Barker
Geoff Barker
Geoff Barker has written about 50 published non-fiction books, but he also loves to create children’s stories. He lives in the East Neuk of Fife and has delivered Bridge workshops to local schools since January 2016, although he also travels as far as Arbroath and Blairgowrie. Geoff's varied workshops focus on key aspects of academic writing: different styles for different audiences, clarity, critical thinking and editing. His interactive, imaginative activities and informal style mean that these sessions really engage his pupils. He helps them develop the necessary skills to deal with future college and university assignments, so they can feel much more confident about their writing.
Katie Grant
Katie Grant
Katie Grant’s expertise at helping young people develop their writing skills is forged through her experience as a novelist, journalist and co-creator of the academic writing website at the University of Glasgow. A co-founder of the Bridge, which amongst other things aims to demystify the term ‘academic writing’, she offers not just practical advice but valuable techniques to overcome the writing problems we all face when moving to university, college or the workplace. In consultation with teachers, her sessions reflect the particular needs of the group with whom she’s working, offer fresh ideas to complement the ongoing writing development work of teaching professionals and remind pupils of the importance of writing even in, perhaps especially in, a digital age.
Laura Hird
Laura Hird
Edinburgh-based writer Laura Hird is the main administrator of the RLF Bridge Project. An RLF Writing Fellow at Queen Margaret University between 2008 and 2011, she has been running Bridge workshops since early 2016. Schools she has visited include Galashiels Academy, Tynecastle, Liberton, Balerno, South Queensferry and Castlebrae High and Wester Hailes Education Centre. Since 2016 she has also been involved in the LEAPS summer school and personal statement workshops at the University of Edinburgh. She is happy to work within higher education establishments throughout Scotland.
Doug Johnstone
Doug Johnstone
Doug Johnstone is the author of eight novels and a dozen short stories. He lives in Edinburgh and has run Bridge workshops in schools across the city for the last three years, ranging from Portobello and Holy Rood to schools such as Stewart’s Melville and St George’s. Doug was the Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at Queen Margaret University from 2014 to 2016; he has also worked there as a Consultant Fellow. He has a PhD in nuclear physics and a diploma in journalism, and he continues to work as an arts journalist and creative writing tutor.
John Keay
John Keay
John Keay has written major histories of India, China and the East India Company, encyclopaedias of Scotland and London, and about twenty other non-fiction titles. He lives in Argyll and has delivered Bridge workshops to local schools. John was RLF Writing Fellow at the University of Dundee and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow. Several of his books have been in print for over twenty years; three have been reissued by the Folio Society. His latest is The Tartan Turban: The Search for Alexander Gardner (2017); the next will be a study of the Himalayan region. He reviews for the Literary Review and the Times Literary Supplement.
Cynthia Rogerson
Cynthia Rogerson
Cynthia Rogerson delivers Bridge workshops to schools in the north of Scotland, including Fortrose Academy, Anderson High School, Portree High School, Dingwall Academy, Gairloch High School and Aboyne Academy. Her informal sessions focus on improving confidence in all aspects of essay writing. She also delivers talks to larger groups on personal statement writing, building an argument and the art of editing. She enjoys helping young writers find the best way to communicate clearly in writing. While the emphasis is on bridging the gap between school and university, sessions can be tailored to students’ needs, including those who are bound for further education or employment.
Cherise Saywell
Cherise Saywell
Cherise Saywell is a novelist and short-story writer. She was the RLF Writing Fellow at Stirling University from 2014 to 2016 and is an RLF Consultant Fellow, facilitating writing workshops for postgraduates and staff in universities around Scotland. She has been working for the Bridge since 2015 and has run the programme at schools across Edinburgh, including Broughton, James Gillespie’s, St Augustine’s, Forrester, Portobello and Drummond Community high schools. She has also been involved with RLF contributions to the LEAPS summer schools and personal statement days.


From Pupils

‘I’m less worried about university writing now.’ 6th year, Baldragon Academy, Dundee.

‘The course really helped me understand academic writing.’ 6th year, Baldragon.

‘I learned about sentence structure and how to structure an essay/argument.’ 6th year, Kirkwall Grammar School.

‘It has made me more confident with writing essays.’ 6th year pupil, Kirkwall Grammar School.

‘The course has cleared up and explained what is important in academic writing.’ 6th year, Kirkwall Grammar School.

‘The course was helpful in making academic writing less daunting.’ 6th year, Mackie Academy.

From Schools

‘The students all seem to have found the workshops incredibly worthwhile and my feeling is that the intensive “all in one week” approach really focused them and that they got more out of it.’ Kirkwall Grammar School.

‘The opportunity to have an RLF Fellow attend Mackie Academy and support our senior Advanced Higher pupils in gaining and developing the necessary skills to support their extended writing pieces in the courses they are studying has been received very positively by both the pupils involved and the staff who are starting to see the benefits in their lessons.’ Mackie Academy.