When a highly-respected literary award is announced later this evening, a Wirral secondary school will have been heavily involved in the process.

The Booker Prize is awarded each year for the best original novel written in the English language and published in the United Kingdom. It is one of the most prestigious awards in literature, recognising some of the finest fiction of our times.

This year, the Reading Agency was looking for 12 groups to shadow the Man Booker Prize shortlist. After Mrs Ferguson, the librarian of Wirral Grammar School for Girls, successfully applied to become one of the 12 groups, the school created the only mixed pupil and adult shadowing group in the country.

The group consists of four members of staff and 16 enthusiastic Year 12 pupils, aged between 16 and 17 years old.

Wirral Grammar School for Girls English Teacher, Hayley Smith, said: "We requested a book that would challenge us, moving away from the conventional genres affiliated with teenage readers and we were given that with Brandon Taylor’s Real Life.

"Each week we met, discussed, debated (and ate chocolate biscuits), exploring the complex issues and our varied opinions on the text.

"It certainly wasn’t a book any of us would have chosen to read for pleasure, but what struck me was the passion it evoked in our pupils, for reading.

"Not only this, but they actively posted images and captions of their reading experience on our school social media, to share and inspire others.

"Once their reviews were uploaded and the process drew to an end, the pupils requested that we continue the book group, stating it was one the most enjoyable parts of their week and has reignited their love of reading, even joining in, via meets, when shielding kept them away from school."

Enthusiasm for reading hasn't just been limited to pupils in the Booker Prize Shadow group either, with many reading groups introduced across the school this year.

Despite access to the library having to be temporarily restricted this year, dedication efforts from the librarian, staff and pupils has meant that the pandemic has inspired a love of reading, rather then hinder it.

Mrs Smith added: "At a time where so many hobbies and social activities have been halted, young people are finding more time to read and technology allows them to access this reading anywhere, at any time, through so many different mediums.

"There are many incentives at the moment being introduced to close the gap between disadvantaged pupils and those who missed out on education during lockdown and reading is such an important part of that.

"We should be promoting reading groups as a way of escapism and socialising, in a world that is becoming increasingly difficult and isolated.

"Pupils should be given more access to literature and more resources to ensure that no child is disadvantaged from doing this."

The winner of the Booker Prize for 2020 will be announced this evening (November 19), with six novelists competing for a £50,000 prize. It will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as well as being livestreamed on iPlayer.

Novelist shortlist

  • Diane Cook - The New Wilderness
  • Tsitsi Dangarembga - This Mournable Body
  • Avni Doshi - Burnt Sugar
  • Maaza Mengiste -The Shadow King
  • Douglas Stuart - Shuggie Bain
  • Brandon Taylor - Real Life