The Bridge


Many pupils approaching the end of secondary school are concerned about the transition to university, college or work. In particular, they worry that academic and other formal writing is difficult. The Bridge project was conceived by Katie Grant to address this. In 2014 the RLF set up a pilot scheme in association with Education Scotland that placed writers in ten schools to give workshops to pupils to help them bridge the gap between school and university writing. Following the success of the pilot, the RLF extended the scheme; we have now worked with nearly 80 partner schools across Scotland.

RLF Bridge workshops are designed to help pupils overcome anxiety about writing and prepare them to face upcoming challenges. All RLF Bridge Fellows are professional writers who have been RLF Writing Fellows in universities, working one-to-one with students to develop their essay writing.

The Bridge is free for schools. It is fully funded by the RLF as part of their educational remit.
If your school is interested in Bridge sessions, please contact Laura Hird at:
bridge@rlf.org.uk


Key objectives

  • to share techniques which all pupils can use to develop their practical writing skills.
  • to introduce and review terms used in academic writing.
  • to give pupils a forum to share, without any pressure, concerns they may have about writing.
  • to address general issues with writing as well as grammar, punctuation, style and essay planning.
  • to help pupils make the transition from writing at school to more advanced writing.


How does it work?

  • the RLF Bridge Fellow meets teachers ahead of the Bridge to discuss the workshops.
  • the workshops are arranged as 5 x 50 minute sessions, or 4 x 50 minute sessions. There is flexibility over timetabling, for example one 50 minute workshop every week for five weeks or two double periods in consecutive weeks, 4 workshops overall. Get in touch to discuss options.
  • pupils taking part are from S5 and/or S6. They can be of varying abilities and studying different subjects and can include those still undecided about university.
  • the workshops are highly interactive, so groups should be no more than 16 pupils, ideally fewer. Larger groups of pupils can be divided up between more than one RLF Bridge Fellow, e.g. four RLF Bridge Fellows for 60 pupils
  • the RLF Bridge Fellow emails the Bridge toolkit to the school and the school prints one workbook for each pupil. At the end the pupils keep their toolkits.

A 5-session Bridge includes:

  • purpose of different writing styles
  • difference between academic and reflective writing
  • breaking down essay titles
  • key instruction terms in essay titles and what they mean
  • essay flow
  • paragraph plans
  • evidence
  • critical thinking
  • introductions and conclusions
  • the three stage of writing: drafting, editing, proof-reading


Where we have worked

LEAPS works in partnership with the RLF Bridge on a number of projects, for example our Academic Skills provision for senior school students, and our Personal Statement writing workshop.

LEAPS logo


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.
Meaghan Delahunt
Meaghan Delahunt
Meaghan Delahunt is a novelist and short story writer. Between 2017-2019 she was the RLF Fellow at the University of Dundee and at Queen Margaret University. Prior to this she worked for over a decade as a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of St Andrews and at the University of Stirling. She also has a background in youth work and enjoys helping young people to gain confidence and to demystify the academic process. She has led writing workshops in the UK, Australia, Europe and India. She has been involved with the Bridge Project since 2018. Born in Melbourne, she has lived in Edinburgh since 1992.
Bashabi Fraser
Bashabi Fraser
Bashabi Fraser is a poet, children's writer, critic and editor. She has worked nationally and internationally in writing residencies and on creative writing projects and taught creative writing as a professor at Edinburgh Napier University. Her prizes include Word Masala Foundation Award for Excellence in Poetry (2017) and Outstanding Woman of Scotland, (Saltire Society, 2015). She is widely published and is Editor-in-Chief of Gitanjali and Beyond. Bashabi is Honorary Vice President of the Association of Scottish Literary Studies (ASLS), executive committee member of Scottish PEN, Writers at Risk Committee and Poetry Association of Scotland. Having enjoyed being involved with the pilot scheme, Bashabi rejoined Bridge and was recently part of a team of 4 Fellows delivering sessions at Prestwick Academy.
Helen Grant
Helen Grant
Helen Grant writes Gothic novels and ghost stories. From 2016 to 2019 she was the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Stirling. She has worked with a diverse range of students from first year undergraduates to postgraduates, ESL and mature students. Her experiences of offering coaching in academic writing and seeing at first hand the benefits to the students led to her joining the Bridge project. She has run Bridge workshops at Prestwick Academy as part of a team working with a large group of students. She also took part in the 2018 LEAPS personal statement day. Helen is based in Perthshire but is happy to travel within Scotland to deliver Bridge workshops.
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. She was the Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the University of Glasgow for three years and has run Bridge workshops in schools across the west of Scotland, including Springburn Academy and the Glasgow Academy.
Laura Hird
Laura Hird
An award-winning writer and former RLF Fellow at Queen Margaret University from 2008-11, Laura joined the Bridge in 2016. The first member of her family to attend university, she enjoys helping pupils feel more confident about their writing and therefore better equipped to face the same daunting jump in expectations that she did. Through Bridge, she has run workshops in schools in Islay, Ayrshire, the Borders and throughout Edinburgh and been involved with LEAPS Summer School and personal statement writing days. In 2017, she followed Bill Kirton as coordinator of Bridge. With the inspiration and support of the team and the RLF, she hopes to encourage more schools to take advantage of this vital, forward-looking project.
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.
Bill Kirton
Bill Kirton
Bill Kirton has written short stories, radio and stage plays, novels, and non-fiction books on writing, studying and workplace skills. He was a lecturer in the French Department at Aberdeen University and, after taking early retirement, became an RLF Writing Fellow at the Robert Gordon University and the universities of Dundee and St Andrews. With Katie Grant, he was the co-ordinator of the Bridge from 2014 to 2017 and has been a Bridge Fellow in schools in Dundee, Stonehaven, Aberdeen, Ellon, and Kirkwall. He was instrumental in setting up the Bridge’s very successful annual collaboration with the organisers of the LEAPS Summer School.
Gordon Meade
Gordon Meade
Gordon Meade is a Scottish poet and creative writing tutor based in the East Neuk of Fife. He has also been, at various times, the creative-writing fellow at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and the writer-in-residence for Dundee District Libraries.His ninth collection of poems, The Year of the Crab, a poetic exploration of his diagnosis and early treatment of cancer, was published in 2017 by Cultured Llama Publishing in Kent. A Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at the University of Dundee in 2008/10 and 2011/12, he has been involved in the Bridge Project since 2016, working with pupils from Kirkland, Buckhaven and Viewforth High Schools and Levenmouth Academy.
Donny O
Donny O'Rourke
Award-winning poet Donny O’Rourke has worked as teacher, mentor and facilitator in almost every sort of educational setting: Cambridge University and Glasgow School of Art, hospitals, community groups, blue chip companies, and, of course, schools. Pupils in his Bridge sessions can benefit from the breadth and depth of his professional experience as a journalist, broadcaster, film maker and television executive. He seeks to create an atmosphere for individual inquiry and collective reflection exactly as he does with his own first year undergraduates to encourage young people in schools to write with concision and precision, persuasiveness and authority. The first member of his family to attend university, he obtained degrees from Glasgow and Cambridge.
Cynthia Rogerson
Cynthia Rogerson
Cynthia Rogerson delivers Bridge workshops to schools in the north of Scotland, including Fortrose, Dingwall and Aboyne Academies and Anderson, Portree and Gairloch High Schools. Her informal sessions focus on improving confidence in all aspects of essay writing, building an argument and the art of editing. She enjoys helping young writers find the best way to communicate clearly and effectively and while the emphasis is on bridging the gap between school and university, her sessions can be helpful to all students, including those who are bound for further education or employment. The author of five novels and collection of stories, her work has been translated into six languages, won the V.S.Pritchett Prize and been adapted for BBC radio.
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 now at Strathclyde University, where she offers individual consultations with students who want to improve their academic writing. As an RLF Consultant Fellow, Cherise facilitates writing workshops for postgraduates in universities around Scotland. She has been working as part of the Bridge team since 2016 and has run the programme at numerous schools around Edinburgh, including Broughton, Drummond, James Gillespie’s, St Augustine’s, Forrester, Portobello and Edinburgh Academy. She has also been involved with RLF contributions to the LEAPS summer schools and personal statement days. Her sessions are tailored to help students of all abilities.
Sheena Wilkinson
Sheena Wilkinson
Described in The Irish Times as ‘one of our foremost writers for young people’, novelist Sheena Wilkinson has won five Children’s Books Ireland awards, including the Book of the Year Award for Grounded (2012), and most recently the Honour Award for Fiction for Star By Star (2017). In 2012 Sheena was granted a Major Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. She was writer-in-residence at the Church of Ireland College of Education, and Ireland’s first patron of reading. She tutors for Arvon and teaches creative writing in a wide range of settings. She was RLF Writing Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast from 2015-2018, and has piloted the RLF Bridge project in Northern Irish schools.

Testimonials

From Pupils
‘Realistic and reassuring practical advice. 10/10…Enjoyed getting to hear other classmates conveying different interpretations…It’s good to do something different with someone new.’ Dingwall Academy

‘My approach to writing has changed concerning the importance of ensuring every sentence works and when put together builds both a clear and accessible argument.’ Edinburgh Academy

‘It has made me more aware of the power my words have.’ Monifieth High School, Angus

‘I feel more at ease and more confident about writing an essay of high quality.’ Prestwick Academy

‘The right balance of fun and learning; new and solidifying… I was sure of university before but it has reassured my passion.’ Wade Academy, Anstruther

‘Very entertaining and interesting…enthusiastic and dedicated tutor…I am excited to use these skills at university…an outside speaker coming in has really helped.’ St George’s School, Edinburgh

‘I didn’t feel confident approaching essay writing and didn’t put much thought into the structure. I now know the steps to take and how to break it up to make it easier for myself.’ Mackie Academy

‘Reality check on the importance of good writing for all courses…Very much helped and introduced me to the jump from school to university.’ Queensferry High School

‘It [The RLF Bridge] gave me a thorough understanding of how unnecessary words can be removed to create succinct, logical points…..very helpful to hear from someone who has been helping students for a while and has covered a wide range of subjects…It’s ok if my first draft isn’t perfect because I now know I can edit and develop it further.’ Anderson High School, Shetland

‘… the activities were really fun and interactive. It [the RLF Bridge] helped me become more confident and excited to write my essay.’ Boroughmuir High School

From Schools
‘Year after year, feedback from the pupils involved is very positive with most reporting an increase in either their literacy skills as a whole, confidence in handling extended writing assignments, or both. The course can be tailor-made to fit in with how much or how little time the school can provide. I would say that schools have everything to gain and nothing to lose by giving this scheme a go!’ Braeview Academy, Dundee

‘Particularly valuable are tips on how to get started writing and how to structure long pieces. Pointers on how to frame tasks were great too. Perhaps the most important bit of advice for budding writers was how to be economical with words. The Fellow brings to his delivery of the course a wealth of knowledge from different disciplines. His humour is very appealing and makes what might be a heavy course, fun for students.’ The Mary Erskine School

‘The experience was valuable, and not something I could have provided them with, having never taught in a university and being years away from my own student days. They (the group) were treated as students, rather than pupils in a school…Students left each session enlightened and more confident in their abilities.’ Clydebank High School

‘The impact on their essays and dissertations has been positive and significant. Work is clearer and better organised…We look forward hopefully to offering this great opportunity to our future students.’ Oban High School

‘The sessions were very well structured and delivered. The pupils responded well and the Writing Fellow’s manner and approach was superb.’ Buckhaven High School

‘Many of the pupils have used their experience to help show their preparation for continued studying after school. Thank you for working with our pupils.’ Arbroath High School

‘Incredibly worthwhile and my feeling is that the intensive “all in one week” approach [for island communities] really focused them.’ Kirkwall Grammar School

‘A clear programme of learning, covering aspects which are vital for academic writing. All of the students felt more confident having gone through the series of workshops. In speaking to them afterwards they described feeling “reassured” and “more ready to write at college/university”.’ Galashiels Academy

‘Students…were eager to attend each session and are now starting to apply the skills they learned. We are having to run additional sessions later in the year to accommodate the interest from the S5 and S6 students.’ St George’s, Edinburgh

‘The Higher class can be a bit quiet and reserved but I thought it helped them to step out of their comfort zone… The Advanced Higher class found it useful as a taster for what is to come at University. I would be more than happy to repeat it next year.’ Viewforth High School