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The Pobble Journey, inspiration and impact

  • by: Simon Blower
  • On: 22, Apr 2024
55 min read

2024 started with a bang for Team Pobble! My colleague Anna and I were incredibly lucky to attend the final of the BBC 500 Words competition. As we sat in the ballroom of Buckingham Palace, usually reserved for state banquets with monarchs, presidents and prime ministers we listened to winning children’s stories being read out by celebrities and felt overwhelmed by how proud the children must have felt to go on the journey from putting pencil to paper to having their writing shared and celebrated in front of the Queen!

A right royal moment of reflection 💭
As we took in the atmosphere my mind drifted and I began to reflect on my own journey from a Primary school teacher in Harrogate in North Yorkshire to the proud co-founder of Pobble Education, a now award-winning and well-respected Edtech platform. Without a doubt, our invitation to the palace was a real highlight of the Pobble story which has taken us on a wonderful journey around the world!

From classroom conception to global aspiration 👨🏽‍🏫
My journey started back in 2012 when I was Deputy Head of a large Primary school in the UK. During a meeting with a colleague Tom Garbutt and an old school friend Henry Smith, we discussed the challenges of teaching writing and the increasing place that technology was having in the classroom. After a few follow-up chats and an agreement that with every challenge there is an opportunity we set off with a vision of using tech to inspire children to write, and in time on our own EdTech journey to create a writing platform to support fellow teachers and pupils.

With a new CEO Jon Smith and some crowdfunding behind us, the first few years of the journey were about establishing LendMeYourLiteracy as a trusted and safe platform schools in the UK could use to publish children’s work. The idea being, to give children an audience for their writing outside of the classroom. Alongside this we began to run writing workshops in schools where we would work with children throughout the day, inspiring them to write and sharing their work with the world at the end of the day in a celebration assembly.

Navigating personal challenges 💔
In early 2014 my personal journey took an unexpected and devastating twist. I had given up my Deputy Head role, and two of my days in school, to focus more energy on building our platform which was getting more traction and taking up more time. My wife was also expecting our first little boy. Unfortunately just three days after arriving into the world, we lost our son Lorenzo. After taking a bit of time away and discussing options with my ever-supportive wife, I decided to give up my school role full-time and challenge myself, in the memory of Lorenzo, to head out into the world to inspire as many young writers as I could. My full-time life as an Edupreneur really had begun…

Small but mighty 💪🏽
We took on a little more funding and started to grow a small, passionate and dedicated team, to join us on our mission, most of whom I’m delighted to say are still proud members of Team Pobble to this day. At the core of our work were our writing workshops in schools and also our writing platform which was now gaining traction internationally. It was during this period we made perhaps two of the biggest decisions of our whole journey. We changed our name from LendMeYourLiteracy to Pobble, a much easier name for our users to remember, a much smarter name for an International audience and most importantly a name that children loved! The second decision was to introduce our first writing resource for teachers. 

Inspiring millions, one prompt at a time 📝
Like many great ideas, ours was based on a pain I regularly experienced as a class teacher. Every morning with my Year 5 children I would start the morning with a 5 to 9 warm-up activity. As writing became a bigger focus in our school, this regularly involved me searching Google for engaging images I could use to inspire the children to write. With this in mind, we began creating a daily picture resource, supported by a set of classroom activities that a teacher could use as a starting point for a piece of creative writing. The resource was an instant success and with a few tweaks became the now-loved Pobble 365. This resource alone has now inspired millions of children around the world to write and came into its own during the COVID-19 pandemic when it became a recommended resource in schools all across the world. Knowing that we could support so many teachers and young writers during what was a horrible time for us all certainly helped power us through it.

Unforgettable writing events 🤩
Throughout our journey, the Pobble team has remained firmly on our mission to inspire children to write. As a team, we’ve faced business and personal challenges, including illnesses, major surgeries and losing valued team members, but we all agree, that remaining committed and focused on our mission has kept us strong and driven throughout. Challenging ourselves to bring creativity and excitement to the teaching of writing. It’s with this in mind some of our biggest successes have been the unique writing events we have been able to host. We’re proud that these events have always been free and thanks to the work of some key partners have allowed us to impact more children. Three events really stand out as unforgettable moments in Pobble’s history. 


LMYL At the top Dubai (1)

Scaling new heights 🏙
In 2015 alongside a brilliant Pobble teacher Jenny Murray, we ran a writing competition for schools across the UAE. The winners were chosen to join us for an exciting writing workshop at the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world's highest building! The children spent an hour writing about being at the Top of The World. The writing produced was incredible and the experience for the children was one I am sure will live with them forever. 

Big Write at the Royal Hall-1

Going BIG and Royal! 👑
With the success of the Dubai event fresh in my mind, I set about working with a partner much closer to home to launch the first ‘Big Write’ event in my hometown of Harrogate. Thanks to the support of the amazing Harrogate Festivals team we were able to put on our first event for over 800 pupils at the Harrogate Royal Hall. A stunning Edwardian theatre, decorated with 23.5-carat gold leaf, how’s that for a classroom! Teaching 30 children can sometimes be a challenge, but delivering a writing session to 800 pupils from 30 schools in a grand theatre really was taking it to another level. We went on to deliver another two Big Write events at the Royal Hall, most notably a session for Royalty when King Charles and Camilla visited the Royal Hall to celebrate 50 years of the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival.

Literacy through Sports-1

Writing goals! 🥅
When training teachers and discussing inspiring children to write, I always emphasise the importance of tapping into their interests. As a passionate sports enthusiast myself, I've found that sports can be a powerful catalyst for creativity and engagement in children’s writing. Through our Literacy through Sports events, we've hosted many sports-based writing workshops. Literacy through Sport was a concept I designed to use sport as the stimulus for inspiring children to write and our live events have taken me to International cricket grounds, Golf events in the UK and Dubai and to a growing number of iconic football clubs around the UK. One of my most memorable events was teaching children at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea. With thanks to the Chelsea Foundation team, we were joined by over 300 children from across London as well as a surprise visit from the Premier League trophy. The children had a tour of the stadium and were then supported in writing a piece of suspense writing about taking a penalty kick. It was an incredible day and so many children went home excited about writing for the first time.

Pandemic response 🚨
The COVID years (as we now refer to them) changed a lot for the Pobble team, our school visits and events took a back seat as we focused on developing our resources further to support home and remote learning. Pobble 365 became bigger than ever and referrals from schools and teachers led to teachers signing up from over 150 different countries. Pobble was truly becoming a global brand and as founders, we were proud to be helping teachers across the world. We developed additional resources including free downloadable non-screen activities that went viral on social media. 

We took all our training online, and started to put on free webinars for teachers to help them with new ideas for their classroom, we regularly had over 100 teachers joining us at each online session and learnt quite quickly how to put on successful and impactful online events. Excited by this we decided to take on the challenge of running one of these events for teachers to join with their children. Linked to our passion for writing about exciting events for children we ran our first online event to link with the football World Cup. We had 300 classes, almost 10,000 pupils joining us from across the UK for a 90-minute writing session. The feedback was incredible, so much so that this year we ran our second event linked to World Book Day and increased this to 500 classes and almost 12,000 eight to eleven-year-olds writing with us. We plan on offering more Pobble 365 Live writing sessions so keep an eye on our website if you’d like to join one with your class! 

Bett show-1

Celebrating Pobble's partnerships 🤝
As a founding teacher, I take great pride in the amount of pupils and teachers we have helped and inspired over the last ten years since I left the classroom full-time. The feedback we get on a daily basis is incredible and helps inspire us as a team to keep making Pobble even better. As a team, we are also incredibly grateful for the recognition and support we have received from within the EdTech community. BETT is the pinnacle of UK EDTEch and we have been fortunate to not only receive a BETT award but also speak on the main stage alongside amazing educators and authors such as Cressida Cowell and Anthony Horowitz. We have also received support from key partners including Microsoft and London Business School, and received some significant grants to help us on our journey. Pobble was lucky to be selected as one of just 8 organisations funded, independently evaluated and supported by the UK Department for Education as a recipient of the government’s Edtech Innovation Fund.

500 Words at the palace-1

From Partnership to Palace 🏰
Which brings me right back to the Palace. We couldn’t have been more excited when after securing a partnership as a content provider for the BBC we were asked to get involved in the return of the BBC 500 words writing competition. Their goal of getting children to use their creativity and imagination to write stories couldn’t have aligned better with our mission of inspiring children to write. As a key partner, we built a range of exciting resources and Pobble 365 lessons which children had access to if they needed some writing inspiration for the competition. With over 44,000 entries the return of the competition was a huge success and as guests of the BBC, we were delighted to attend the final, hosted by HRH Queen Camilla, to hear the winning stories and meet the finalists.

A Decade of Gratitude and looking forward 🌍
As a Pobble founder, I couldn’t be prouder of what the team has achieved over the last 10 years and am excited about how many more children we can inspire over the coming years. As we celebrate over a decade of impact, we remain committed to our mission of empowering young writers and educators worldwide. With gratitude for the past and excitement for the future, we look forward to continuing our journey of inspiration with you. We extend our heartfelt thanks to the educators, students, and partners who have supported us on this incredible journey. Together, we've transformed the teaching of writing and inspired countless young minds.

Here's to even more creativity, innovation, and impact. Watch this space…

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