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The Bridge is a series of workshops that help senior pupils develop their writing, as well as prepare for the challenges of more academic or formal writing at university, college or work. Conceived by Consultant Fellow Katie Grant, and developed and funded by the RLF, the workshops are run by experienced professional writers who have worked with students in universities as RLF Writing Fellows. Over 150 schools across the UK have already benefited and RLF Bridge Fellows have also worked in partnership with the British Library and LEAPS.

The workshops are designed to help pupils overcome anxiety about writing and prepare them to face upcoming challenges, and consist of 4 x 50 minute sessions. 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.

There is no cost to schools: the workshops are fully funded by the RLF as part of its educational remit. Where in-person workshops are not feasible, we can offer an online version of the Bridge, consisting of 2 x 50 minute sessions.

If your school is interested in Bridge sessions, please contact:
Laura Hird (Scotland and Northern Ireland)
Karin Altenberg (England and Wales)

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 boost pupils’ confidence in their ability to write well.

How does it work?

  • the RLF Bridge Fellow consults teachers ahead of the Bridge to discuss the workshops and agree timetabling and modes of delivery.
  • pupils taking part are from S5/Y12 and/or S6/Y13. 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 supplies all materials to be used online/ in class, and the pupils keep their toolkits afterwards.

What is covered?

  • the purpose of different writing styles
  • 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

Bridge Fellows

Dipo Agboluaje
Oladipo ‘Dipo’ Agboluaje is a playwright, university tutor, dramaturg and creative writing workshop facilitator. He was the 2018/19 Writer in Residence of the National Theatre a fellow of the International Research Centre, Freie University, Berlin. He has worked as a Teaching Assistant at Westminster Academy. He has worked with several youth theatre companies as a writer and as a workshop leader such as Theatre Centre, Polka Theatre, Tutti Frutti and Unicorn Theatre. He has written several plays for young people, including Immune, Giant Killers, God is a DJ, and Knock Against My Heart.
Karin Altenberg
Originally from Sweden, Karin is a novelist, critic and translator. She holds a PhD in Archaeology and her experience as a novelist and academic writer – and of living within two languages – influenced her work as a RLF Fellow at Brunel University, particularly in understanding the writing development of students with more than one language. Karin joined the Bridge in 2019 and recognises that supporting students in becoming more confident writers is a way to enhance their experience of life after school. Karin is the Bridge coordinator for England and, together with her colleagues, she hopes to encourage more schools and students to benefit from the opportunities brought by the project.
Sarah Ardizzone
Sarah Ardizzone is a literary translator from the French. Her translations include graphic novels, books for children and young adults, hip-hop lyrics and film scripts. Brussels-born and Brixton-based, Sarah is passionate about making diverse voices heard and enjoys collaborating with authors of African and Caribbean heritages. Co-founder of Translators in Schools, Sarah is also a mentor on the National Centre for Writing's Emerging Translators Scheme and has thirty years of experience in delivering workshops. From 2017-2019, Sarah was the RLF Fellow at the Centre for Doctoral Studies, King’s College, London. Since 2019, Sarah has delivered the RLF Bridge live to visiting schools at the British Library, and virtually to Knights Academy, Lewisham.
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.
Lisa Evans
Lisa Evans is an award winning playwright working across stage, tv and radio. She has enjoyed working as an RLF Fellow at Brunel, St Mary’s and the University of West London, helping students at all levels with all aspects of academic writing, but has felt particular sympathy for first year undergraduates facing the daunting expectations of this new environment. Working on the Bridge project allows her to share her enthusiasm for the ongoing process of writing development with students across the curriculum, empowering them with practical advice and valuable techniques to overcome the writing anxieties everyone encounters when moving from school to work, college or university and to enjoy getting their ideas across effectively.
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.
Valerie Gillies
Valerie Gillies has published nine collections of poetry and one book of non-fiction. Her most recent volume, The Cream of the Well: New and Selected Poems, was shortlisted for the Saltire Award in 2016. She is a former Edinburgh Makar, poet laureate to the city. Valerie was a Royal Literary Fellow at Queen Margaret University for two years. She has been Creative Writing Fellow at the University of Edinburgh for several years and was an Associate of Harvard University in 2014 – 2015. She has delivered writing sessions for BRIDGE at the LEAPS Summer School for the past two years and most recently at Boroughmuir High School.
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’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
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 in Scotland. 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.
Christina Hopkinson
Christina Hopkinson the author of five novels, two non-fiction books and countless articles for publications including The Guardian, The Times and The Telegraph. Between 2017 and 2020, she was the RLF Fellow at the London College of Fashion. She has a deep personal interest in education, with three secondary-school aged children and having volunteered as a literacy helper and chair of fundraising at their north London primary school. Previously, she has worked as a teacher both in the UK and in Spain, in children’s publishing and in launching websites for newspapers. She is thrilled to be joining the Bridge and only wishes she’d been able to benefit from something similar at school.
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.
Nicolette Jones
Nicolette Jones is an award-winning writer and critic who has written non-fiction for adults and innumerable newspaper articles, and compiled anthologies for young people. For more than two decades she has reviewed the children’s books for The Sunday Times, and is experienced at judging book prizes (from the Women’s Prize to the Empathy Lab selection) and at programming and chairing public events for both young people and adults. Her own track record of academic writing includes studying at Oxford, and on a graduate fellowship at Yale, and she has helped undergraduates and graduates with their writing as a RLF Fellow at University College London and King’s College London.
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.
Donny O
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 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.
Leigh Russell
Leigh Russell has written twenty-two novels. Her crime series has sold over a million books, and been shortlisted for several major awards. Keen to support aspiring writers, Leigh chairs the judges for the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger Award, and runs their critiquing service. She has delivered highly acclaimed writing courses to adults and university students, and has been an RLF Fellow at the University of Westminster since 2017. Leigh has a Masters degree in English. Trained to teach pupils with specific learning difficulties, and TESOL trained, she taught as a secondary school English teacher and SENCO for many years.
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.
Amanda Swift
Amanda Swift writes fiction for children and has made many author visits to primary schools. She has a post-16 teaching certificate (ProfGCE) in Literacy, taught 16-18 year-olds at Lewisham College (2012-13) and Creative Writing to First Year students at the University of East London (UEL) in 2018. For the RLF, she has been Writing Fellow for Humanities students at UEL and for Healthcare students at London South Bank University; she was also a Consultant Fellow from 2014 to 2020, leading workshops at UEL for postgraduates and staff in Academic Writing in English as a Second Language and Creative Writing for Professional Development.
Wendy Wallace
Wendy Wallace is a writer and former education journalist. Her first non-fiction book was Oranges and Lemons: a year in the life of an inner city primary school. Her second, Daughter of Dust, told the true story of an inspirational Sudanese woman. Prize-winning author of three historical novels, Wendy spent three years as RLF Fellow at Goldsmith’s, University of London, and has worked on the Bridge programme at the British Library with students from a wide range of London schools. Now on her fourth novel, she’s still trying to improve her craft and enjoys working with students on practical ways that they can develop their writing skills and confidence.
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.
Anne Wilson
Anne Wilson is an ex-journalist, novelist, short story and flash fiction writer, who also writes corporate film scripts and speeches. Anne has supported young people's writing for many years - as a mentor for Year 13 school students preparing personal statements for university, as RLF Fellow at Brunel University from 2014 to 2017 and as a careers consultant helping new graduates to get jobs. She was also a volunteer counsellor at Childline for 5 years.


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.

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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.’ Waid 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

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