Contest winner takes the helm of Whitefriars

Writing contest winner Layla Harnett, nine, of Herne Junior School with Peter Scutt of Whitefriars.

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A nine-year-old girl took charge of a major Kent shopping centre for a day after winning a KM Charity Team writing competition.

Herne Junior School pupil Layla Harnett helped security guards keep order, contributed to a window display and gave her opinion on a marketing campaign at the Whitefriars centre in Canterbury.

The special day was her prize for coming first in a creative writing competition, in which entrants had to pen a letter to a friend encouraging them to walk to school.

Layla said: “I really liked being the boss. The three things I liked the most were the security cameras, going around with the security guards, and doing the window display in [stationery shop] Smiggle.

“But I don’t think I want to do it full time; I want to be a dancer in theatre.”

Operations manager Rob Connell said: “I think she’s actually one of the best bosses I’ve ever worked for – far better than our existing one, anyway!”

Layla gets to work.

Layla’s winning letter articulately pointed out the benefits of green travel.

‘Walking is so much more rewarding. By starting the day off with a fresh, brisk walk to school, your mind awakens, making you feel ready for the day ahead,’ it said.

‘It’s obvious that walking is the healthier option for everyone, including our parents. There is no doubt that walking to school is a great learning experience, as you gain a good road sense.’

Centre manager Peter Scutt described her letter as “lucid and flowing”, adding: “The walk to school campaign is really important, for us in Kent in particular.

“Walking to school takes traffic off the road and makes our environment better for everyone. That’s marvellous stuff, and Layla has been very clever with what she’s written.”

The writing competition is running again this spring – and this time the winner will be the boss of Wildwood discovery park, just outside of Herne Bay, for a day.

To enter, children must write an account of their journey to school – the things that happen, who and what they see, who they talk to, and how they feel.

The winner will take charge of Wildwood for a day and will get to work with the staff, attend meetings, make decisions, and get close to some of the park’s 200 native British creatures.

The competition is open to primary school children in Kent, Medway, Bexley, and Bromley and the closing date is Friday, March 16. For more information, or to enter, visit

The KM Charity Team’s walk to school projects are supported by White’s Transport, Ashford International Hotel, Orbit, Volker Highways, Countrystyle Recycling, Golding Vision (part of Golding Homes), Specsavers, Eurostar, Kent County Council, Medway Council, London Borough of Bexley, Three R’s Teacher Recruitment, Maidstone Borough Council, Ashford Borough Council, and Whitefriars.

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