The Lockdown 2021 Essay Competition

We are inviting students in year 10 and 11 at state schools in our link areas to take part in an essay competition designed to stretch them in their learning, support learning from home, and give them a taste of university-style work. 


What is the assignment?

There are 6 questions, each on a different subject. Choose one that interests you, and then do some research around it so that you can write a well-informed essay. Your essay should be no longer than 1,500 words (and it can be shorter if you feel that you have made all of the points that you would like to make in a shorter essay. At university, the kind of learning that students do is different to what you do at school. Whereas at school you follow a curriculum and although you have some choice, it is mostly up to others (your teachers and exam boards) what you learn, at university students have a lot more control over their learning. They can study particular aspects of certain subjects that interest them in more detail, and can choose either to continue learning about a subject that they enjoyed at school (like English, Biology or History) or to study something they have never studied before (like Classics, Earth Sciences, or Law). They can also choose to bring subjects together to make combinations (such as Politics, Philosophy and Economics studied together as one degree, or Maths and Philosophy). These five questions are designed so that you can answer them from whichever perspective interests you most – and we invite you to bring together different subjects in your answers as well as to explore beyond what you are currently studying at school. You don’t need to know anything about these topics in advance before you start working on this project.   



Who can take part?

Anyone who is in year 10 or 11 at any state school in Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield or Northamptonshire can take part. You should check with a parent or guardian and with a teacher at your school that they are happy for you to take part in this project before you start working on it.


What resources can I use to do the research?

Many of the libraries that would usually provide you with resources to read and learn about particular topics are currently closed. For this reason, we have made a research pack for each of these essay questions – if you click on the question you are interested in, you will be able to download the reading pack. Some of these readings will be challenging, and you should feel free to pick and choose which ones you focus on. You do not need to do any extra reading beyond these packs, but if you would like to there are plenty of resources online for you to have a look at. Try looking at some of the Big Questions on the University of Oxford’s Oxplore website, browsing Worcester College’s lockdown learning resources, or finding out whether there is a radio documentary relevant to your area of research available on the BBC Radio 4. You can also use TED talks, listen to lectures online, read articles via online magazines like Aeon or look for newspaper articles online. Make sure that you keep a list of the resources that you use, so that you can show where you have taken quotations from in your essay. Remember that not everything that you read (especially online) is true, and that you will need to look at different perspectives on the topics you are researching, and weigh up the evidence carefully in your own mind.


When should I submit my essay?

You should submit your essay – at the latest – at 5pm on Friday 9th April. You are very welcome to submit it earlier if you have finished. Please submit your essay by email to us:, and please use a font that is no smaller than 12pt to type out your essay. If you do not have access to a computer you are very welcome to write out your essay by hand and post it to us:


FAO: Tinsley Outreach Fellow

Worcester College

1 Walton Street




When you submit your essays, please also let us know 1) your name, 2) the name of your school, 3) which year group you are in and 4) an address that we can use to send the essay back to you (either by email or post). We will read all of the essays after the closing date and let you know the winners and runners up of the essay prize as soon as we are able to.


Writing tips

Everything that you write in your essay needs to be your own work. You can quote other people, but you should make sure it is clear that these words are not your own and tell us where you have read / heard them. Begin by outlining what you aim to do in your essay. Why is the question you have chosen important or interesting to you, and how are you planning to answer it? It is likely that in your research you will have discovered that there are different opinions on the topic you are researching. Try to let your reader know what these different view points are, as well as to make clear what your own view is. Do you agree or disagree with the scholars whose work you have read – and why? We want to hear your own thoughts throughout the essay, but you need to give evidence and explain why you think the things you think. At the end of the essay you should draw a conclusion, and give an answer to the question you have chosen as your title, taking into account everything that you have read and learned about in the course of your research. You should also include a list of the articles, books, podcasts, documentaries and any other resources that you have used to write your essay. Make sure that the whole of your easy is clearly written, and that even someone who did not know anything about the subject would be able to read it. A good way to test this is to read the essay aloud, either to yourself or someone else in your household, to see whether your argument comes through. When you are doing university work, it is very normal for you to do multiple drafts, and re-write the essay multiple times – so don’t worry if you think you need to do this as part of your own writing process!