How volunteering fits within the Orwell Youth Prize


The work of our volunteers is what makes the Orwell Youth Prize unique. More than just a prize, we offer support to all young people who put pen to paper (or fingers to keypads) through the delivery of personalised feedback and a fair judging process.

One of our volunteer readers, Elizabeth Ryan, has written this helpful article on her experience of the importance of feedback and advice for other volunteer readers.

Find out more about our volunteering opportunities below, or contact the Programme Coordinator, Tabby Hayward at tabby.hayward@orwellfoundation.com

“I think my work was a small part of something big…I would definitely recommend it. It’s a very rewarding experience. It allows you to contribute to something great, which will make you feel good about yourself. ” Cristina, UCL Student Volunteer 2022

Read the full interview with Cristina about her volunteering experience on the University College London Student Union website here. Cristina volunteered with us editing an educational video resource. Although our main volunteering opportunities are providing Personalised Feedback and Shortlisting, as outlined below, we do occasionally have additional volunteering opportunities, such as this one. Please contact the team to find out more.

1. Personalised Feedback

Our feedback provides young people with a personalised response to their work, with experienced professionals across the spheres of publishing, literature, academia, civil society and more offering their perspectives and knowledge to ensure young people’s work is the best it can be when they submit it to the prize.

Our feedback aims to go beyond that typically offered within a formal academic setting; encompassing grammatical and stylistic advice as well as encouragement and suggestions for further reading around a subject area. This opportunity provides young people without strong academic support networks the chance for constructive advice on their writing from skilled individuals. We believe this shouldn’t be a privilege isolated to those at the best schools.

Ideally, volunteers will be comfortable offering feedback across writing genres given that young people enter writing in multiple forms including poetry, short stories, essays and journalism. However, we can work to build a volunteering opportunity tailored to your expertise in a certain form (e.g., some volunteers are more comfortable commenting on essays than poetry).

“I’ve really enjoyed participating, and the chance to get some feedback was so lovely.” OYP Entrant and Winner 2022, Aarushi Dahiya (read Aarushi’s winning piece, which also received a response from Dr Jane Goodall DBE)

“I was not expecting this much individual care and attention to have gone into providing feedback for my piece, and so to receive such wonderful advice is so, so lovely and has made me feel really encouraged to keep writing!” OYP Entrant 2020

“It was a privilege to read the emotive and forceful responses to this year’s Orwell Youth Prize theme. Several of the pieces have really stayed with me. Particularly during lockdown I enjoyed the challenge of providing constructive feedback to the applicants. Young voices are important voices, and The Orwell Youth Prize does a great job of underscoring the importance of language to young people, increasing their writing confidence, and working against the unequal distribution of resources and opportunities for young people in the UK.”  Grace Ranola, Oxford University Press, Orwell Youth Prize Volunteer 2020

Estimated Time Commitment: Personalised Feedback

Writing Time

Writing each piece of feedback takes on average between 30-45 minutes depending on the length of the piece. Volunteers have the opportunity to commit to as many or as few pieces of feedback as they are able to manage. We do ask that volunteers give us a clear indication of time they are able to give at the beginning of the process so that we can assign pieces accordingly to ensure young people receive their feedback within our timeline and that we maintain our commitment to them.

Due to safeguarding, the Foundation team manage the relationship between writer and ‘feedbacker’ – this process is anonymous by necessity. However, we are sure to feedback any comments or thanks from young people back to the volunteers.


Volunteers will be asked to attend a short online briefing session where the Programme Coordinator outlines the feedback process in more detail. The session is also an opportunity for volunteers to ask questions about the youth prize and the process. We will also provide volunteers with out volunteer handbook.

 2024 Dates for Feedback Process

The feedback process starts as soon as the prize opens. However, volunteers will be given more significant allocations of feedback to complete between February and 1st April (the deadline for entrants to submit for feedback). As a result, the bulk of feedback work takes place between the 1st – 22nd April, the final deadline for volunteers to complete their pieces.


2. Read Young People’s Work – Help with shortlisting for the Orwell Youth Prize

The Orwell Youth Prize prides itself on its robust and transparent judging process. All entries are anonymised and read by at least two readers as a way to whittle down a final shortlist which goes to our judges.

Estimated Time Commitment: Shortlisting

The number of entries given to a ‘shortlister’ to read is flexible. The time commitment could go from 30 minutes to around 3 or 4 hours. The length of the piece depends on the genre and age category, but the maximum word count for a piece is 1,500 words.

2024 Dates for Shortlisting

Shortlisting will take place between the 6th – 27th May 2024. Volunteers will need to be able to commit to a number of hours within this period to be eligible to take part.


Becoming an Orwell Youth Prize Volunteer

The Orwell Youth Prize prides itself on the quality and diversity of its volunteer network. We’re keen to work both with organisations and individuals with the necessary skills to support young writers and thinkers in new ways.


The Orwell Youth Prize currently has strong volunteering partnerships with Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, University College London and King’s College London. If your organisation has a corporate social responsibility policy or service strand and a workforce with a strong literary, academic or policy-based skillset please do consider getting in touch to discuss the development of a volunteer offer.


The Orwell Youth Prize welcomes individuals with the skillsets we are seeking. Given the nature of our work, we particularly seek volunteers with a background in the arts and humanities (preferably studied to BA level). However, we of course understand that talents and experiences can be found outside traditional markers. As a result, we may ask volunteer applicants to submit a CV, writing sample or to complete a feedback task ahead of their engagement with the process.

Volunteering to help longlist entries for the 2020 Orwell Youth Prize was such a fantastic opportunity… it was an uplifting experience to be able to engage with such imaginative writing from young people from such a wide range of backgrounds.” Emma Collison, Oxford University Press Volunteer


Our responsibility to young people

Ensuring we responsibly deliver a quality experience for young people is our priority. As a small organisation, our feedback offer to young people is safeguarded through a centrally monitored and anonymised system of delivery. Volunteer induction includes details of our safeguarding process, but should you have any questions on our process please contact the Programme Coordinator Tabby Hayward at tabby.hayward@orwellfoundation.com

Depending on your engagement and volunteering with the Orwell Youth Prize, the Orwell Youth Prize may be required to complete a DBS check on your behalf.