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500 Words Rules

1. The competition is organised by the BBC. 500 Words is supported by Oxford University Press in a co-production partnership.

2. The BBC's Code of Conduct for Competitions and Votes applies to this competition. You can read more about it here: BBC Competition Code of Conduct.

3. Entry to this competition is open to persons who will be aged between 5 and 13 years on the 12th June 2020 who are full time residents of the UK (including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) except the children or close relatives of employees of the BBC or its affiliates, the Reading Agency, Oxford University Press, or the children or close relatives of any person closely connected with the competition. Entries must be submitted by an adult (parent/guardian or teacher) on behalf of the child; this adult must have parental permission. This adult may be asked, with parental permission, to provide proof of age, identity and eligibility. Entry will be in two age categories – ages 5 to 9 years (on 12th June 2020) and 10 to 13 years (on 12th June 2020).

4. Entrants must write a fictional short story (no more than 500 words in length). Entry is via an online entry form available at The responsible adult submitting the story on behalf of the entrant, will be asked to provide the entrant’s name, gender, region and their age and ensure that they have parental permission to do so. The submitter must enter the child’s story in the text box provided for submission.

5. All stories should be submitted in English.

6. We can only accept stories which are 500 words or fewer according to the word counter on the online submission form; the BBC cannot accept word counts from any other software. Please make sure you check the word count on our form if you are pasting from another piece of software, such as Microsoft Word.

7. Entries can only be accepted online; postal entries or entries sent over email will not be read or considered. Entries sent over email before the deadline because of technical errors will not be considered.

8. The adult submitting the entrant’s story, will be required to approve the entry and agree to these Rules (including the BBC’s use of the story submitted and the fictional nature of the story) on behalf of the entrant, by way of a check-box in the online form. The adult may be the child’s parent, guardian or teacher. The adult must provide their own contact and personal details (not the child’s). Teachers submitting stories on behalf of pupils must seek parental permission and if requested by the BBC, provide evidence of permission in the event of an enquiry or complaint.

9. For the top 50 shortlisted entries, if permission to enter was given by a teacher, the BBC will contact the teacher and ask for confirmation of permission from the entrant’s parent or guardian.

10. Entry opens on Thursday 16th January 2020 at 08:00. Entry closes on Thursday 27th February 2020 at 20:00. Submissions received outside of this time frame will not, under any circumstances be considered, so the BBC advises users not to wait until the last minute to submit entries. The 500 Words website receives a lot of entries in the last few hours of the competition. The BBC cannot be held to account if the website runs slowly.

11. If users have emailed the administrators and are awaiting a response, the competition deadline still stands. Unless the competition administrators have explicitly instructed otherwise, all users must submit stories before the deadline in order to be considered in the competition.

12. Entrants can only enter individually. Only one entry per person is permitted and the story must be wholly written by the entrant only; stories cannot be written by more than one person. If more than one entry is submitted, only the entrant's first submission will be considered.

13. Entries must be an original piece of fiction and not an account of real events – either historical or current. However, stories can feature well known public figures from present day or from history (e.g. Wayne Rooney or Charles Darwin) take place in historical eras (e.g. the English Civil War) or use real-life experiences as a creative springboard as long as the story is FICTIONAL. If entrants are unclear on whether the content of a story contradicts these Rules, they may email the competition administrators at The entrant’s parent, guardian or teacher warrants that they have not used material or depicted events that actually took place or used the personal details of any living persons in the story. As the stories will be published it is important that entrants do not include any personal details about themselves. The entrant must not include their name in the title or body of the story; entries which do contain this information may be removed from the competition.

14. Entries cannot be returned so please remember to retain a copy. Unsuccessful entrants will be contacted in respect of their entry but no feedback on any entry will be provided.

15. All entries must be the original work of the entrant and must not infringe the rights of any other party. The BBC accepts no responsibility if entrants ignore these Rules and the entrant’s parent, guardian or teacher agrees to indemnify the BBC against any claim by any third party from any breach of these Rules.

16. Entries must not contain defamatory, obscene, offensive, or any other unsuitable material; the BBC reserves the right to disqualify entries containing such matter. Entries must be suitable to be broadcast, published or used online by the BBC for audiences of all ages, but in particular for a child audience. Please see the following for further information: BBC Editorial Guidelines, If the story has troubling content the BBC may if required take advice from the NSPCC, and may refer the Troubling Content to the relevant authorities - BBC Child Protection Policy.

17. Entrants retain the copyright in their entries but their parent or guardian grants to the BBC a perpetual non-exclusive royalty-free licence to publish, broadcast (across all media) and post the entry online and on any other platforms yet to be envisaged. This licence will be deemed to include all the necessary rights and permissions to enable such use by the BBC, to fulfill the prizes and to complete the administration of this competition.

18. By submitting a story the entrant’s parent or guardian agrees that the BBC may at its sole discretion edit, adapt, abridge or translate the entry for the purposes listed in clause 17 above.

19. Entrants agree in clause 17 that the BBC may publish the stories on their website for the duration of 5 years, after which all names and attribution will be removed.

20. In the event that the entry is published online at, for the avoidance of doubt, this will not be part of, or influence in any way, the judging process. Only the story title, entrant’s name and age will be published with an entry.

21. Entries will be judged on the following criteria:

- Originality
- Plot
- Characterisation
- Language
- Enjoyment

22. The first round will be judged by teachers and librarians across the UK. Each teacher and librarian will receive a batch of anonymised stories, from entrants located in a different area of the UK, to read and score using the criteria above. Each teacher and librarian will be emailed all stories (via a secure login) along with details of the criteria and how to score the stories. The 5000 highest scored entries from this round will be put through to the next round. This process will be overseen by a BBC Editorial Figure. Parents or teachers of entrants may sign up to judge in the competition.

23. In addition to the 50 Finalists of the competition, 6 wild card entries will be selected. These stories will be jointly selected by literacy experts at the Reading Agency (charity number 1085443 (England & Wales)) and the BBC. These stories will have been judged to demonstrate outstanding creativity and originality. These 6 stories, 3 in each age category, will be judged alongside the Top 50 and will be in contention for the Bronze, Silver and Gold medals in each age category.

24. All teachers and librarians taking part in the judging will receive a link to enter the draw if they wish, , the winners of which will be randomly selected, to receive a pair of tickets to attend the broadcast of The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show on Friday 12th June 2020.

25. The Top 50 shortlisted entrants will receive a pair of tickets to the Final (for the entrant and a parent or guardian). All entrants of the competition will receive a link to enter the draw to receive a pair of tickets (for the entrant and a parent or guardian) to the Final; this ballot will be run among the remaining entrants after the finalists have been selected, and winners of the ballot will be notified in May. We cannot notify unsuccessful members of the ballot. The BBC cannot pay for the travel and accommodation of winners of the ballot.

26. The 5000 highest scored entries from the first round of judging will be collated and considered by a judging panel from The Reading Agency, in partnership with a BBC Editorial Figure. The Reading Agency panel will read and score these anonymised stories using the criteria above, to produce a shortlist of the top 50 entries comprising the top 25 entries from each of the two age categories. The Top 50 stories will be verified by a BBC Editorial figure and the ages and identities of the writers confirmed.

27. These top 50 entries will be read and judged by a guest panel chaired by Chris Evans. 3 finalists with 1 overall winner will be selected in each age category (gold, silver and bronze – gold being the overall winners).

28. The Top 50 shortlisted entrants (25 in each age category) will be invited to attend the Final at a London location on Friday 12th June 2020 for the live broadcast of the BBC Radio 2 Zoe Ball Breakfast Show. The full names of the 6 finalists and the overall winners will be announced during this live broadcast, subject to parental permission. We will request parental permission for pictures of the Top 50 children for use during the broadcast. These pictures are not for online publication.

29. The entries from the 6 finalists will be performed by an actor or well-known figure and broadcast on Radio 2. In addition, the entries of the 6 finalists may be published in a national newspaper. An anthology of the top 50 entries (25 in each age category) may also be published.

30. Prizes will be awarded to the 3 finalists in each age category: the 2 Gold winners will win Chris Evans' height in books (6.2") and 500 books each for their school. The 2 Silver winners will win Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall's height in books (5.6"). The 2 Bronze winners will win their own height in books. All 6 finalists will receive an illustration of their story by one of the children’s illustrators.There will be an additional prize of a book bundle plus invite to the final (plus parent or guardian) for the entrant selected at random, as well as 500 books for their school. The Gold, Silver and Bronze winners are not eligible for this random draw.

31. The parents or guardians of the top 50 successful entrants will be contacted by a member of the production team at the beginning of May 2019; further proof of age, identity and eligibility may be requested at this stage. The BBC will contribute a limited amount towards travel expenses and endeavour where possible to provide one twin hotel room to share for the child and a parent or guardian to attend the broadcast of The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show on Friday 12th June 2020, however the BBC cannot cover any additional travel and accommodation that may be incurred by any other family or friends of the entrant.
32. The BBC's decision as to each stage of this competition, the top 50 (25 in each category), the 6 finalists and the choice of gold, silver and bronze in each category is final. No correspondence will be entered into.

33. The BBC reserves the right to disqualify any entry which breaches any of these Rules, brings the BBC into disrepute or to withhold a prize if in its opinion entries do not reach the required standard.

34. The BBC reserves the right to amend these Rules or cancel this competition at any stage, if deemed necessary in its opinion, or if circumstances arise outside of its control.

35. The BBC, its sub-contractors, subsidiaries, agencies and/or any other organisation associated with this competition cannot accept any responsibility whatsoever for any technical failure or malfunction or any other problem with any server, Internet access, system or otherwise which may result in any entry being lost or not properly registered or recorded. Proof of sending is not proof of receipt.

36. These Rules are governed by the laws of England and Wales. This service is subject to the BBC’s Terms of Use.