The waiting is over and several teenage students from across the Cotswolds that missed out on taking their GCSEs or A-Levels because of lockdown found out last week that their outstanding talent had been recognised and rewarded.

The Cotswold Challenge, which launched at the end of April at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, invited students to send in their artwork, photographs, poems, stories, inventions or business ideas to be judged by talented and famous judges such as Lady Bathurst, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Tessa Bremner and Adam Henson. Their subject could have been anything they wanted in one or more of the three categories: Art & Design; Creative Writing or Innovation & Entrepreneurial Thinking (I&E), but many of the 465 entries from the Cotswold teenagers gave an interesting and emotional perception of what lockdown had meant to them.

Students from Cirencester College scooped a number of the prizes of £500 for first place in each category, £300 for second place, £150 for third place, £50 for fourth place and four fifth and Highly Commended prizes of a £25 book voucher to be used at The Mad Hatter Book Shop, Burford. In addition, the top four students in the Innovation category also received a signed copy of Barry Jackson’s book: Your First Job: How to Sabotage Your Career in 8 Easy Steps.

Cirencester College student, Charlotte Evers won first place in the Art & Design category for her painting of a View Through A Window. In joint third place in the same category was Ben Waldron with his design entitled Biotica and Jamie Moody attained third place in the Creative Writing category with his very touching story called Your Name Is.

First place winner in the Creative Writing category was Agata Spasik from Braden Forest School with her Toaster Poetry and taking first place in the I&E category was Sam Groves from Cirencester Deer Park with his idea for an ergonomically designed bird box. When Agata was told she had won, she said: “I don’t believe it. I have never won anything in my life.” Her delight was also compounded when she found out that she had won £500 and not the £50 that she thought was the first prize!

Many of the celebrity judges provided encouraging comments for the students. TV personality and interior designer, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen said of a sculpture called Mutated Fungus by Isabella Crovetto of Cirencester College: “What a wonderfully glamorous sculpture of degradation. I would literally have it on my coffee table.”

Judge and sponsor, Caroline Summers from The Paperback Shop, Fairford, said: “I felt really humbled to read how many of our younger generation genuinely are so passionate about the environment, the elderly and animals. Such a wonderful thing to see when youngsters often get a bad press.”

The Cotswold Challenge comprised three categories; 465 talented entries; 12 top money prizes; 12 Highly Commended awards; 36 Commended awards; 20 illustrious judges; 18 generous sponsors; 42 Cotswold schools and five members of The Cotswold Collective team, who organised the initiative – Nigel Chute of Chute Design, Barry Jackson of Aspire Academy, Allison Murray of Allison Murray Design, Chris Roberts, freelance writer and Fiona Scott of Fiona Scott Media.

To see a full list of winners and judges’ comments, visit: