About us

Welcome to the Southern Schools Book Award website!

We created this award to recognise the fantastic UKYA books that are published every year, and to give students the chance to have their say on which is the best.


  • Published for the first time in paperback between 1 April and 31 March prior to the award year.
  • Written by an author resident in the UK.
  • Aimed at an age range encompassing Year 9 students.


February: Teachers, librarians and students select books for the longlist.
June: Shortlist announced.
September: Students begin reading, reviewing and debating the shortlisted books.
December: Students vote for their favourite book on the shortlist.
January: The winner is announced at the Awards Ceremony.


The Southern Schools Book Award began in 2004 after Mandy Rutter, librarian at Homewood School, brought her work from the North East Book Award down south.

She had seen, worked with and helped to create a climate where students buzzed with being part of a ‘book thing’ that was theirs. They had ownership of the outcome. They read, they discussed, they voted, their choice counted. In other words, what they read and said was valuable! So why not?

Schools in the region were contacted and the first year saw us go forward as a group of nine.

By the second year word had spread and we quickly grew to twenty schools including one in South Africa that shadowed the award. We continued to expand and in 2007 crossed the boundary of East Sussex to be joined by schools in Kent.

We, as a group, felt that year 9 students needed to develop or retain and expand the reading for pleasure habit before going into year 10. Just as important, we thought support from teachers would be more forthcoming if we targeted this pre-GCSE age group.

Prominent publishing houses were contacted for titles that fell within our criteria. This was for books published for the first time in paperback in the UK between April 1 and March 31 just prior to the award year. Authors must be resident in the UK. We also took into consideration those titles nominated for the Carnegie Medal.

We looked at possible costs: £5 book tokens for student judges (now £7), the cost of reprographics for publicity and funding for multiple copies of the short-listed titles. The award evening event also needed to be taken into financial consideration.

There are of course the hidden costs for such things as drinks and biscuits for meetings and the odd prize or treat for those involved in spin-off activities.

For our first two years we were funded via gifts from Access-IT Library Systems, St Bede’s School, Morrison’s, Microlibrarian Systems and East Sussex County Council. Each participating school paid a £50 subscription to join. This has now risen to £75. In 2006 HSBC very kindly donated over £7000 for the purchase of book tokens and multiple copies of the short listed titles for each school.

The autumn of our first year saw us in print in the School Librarian which is published by the School Library Association.

Within school we looked at spin off and cross curricular activities such as redesigning front covers of the short listed titles or re-writing the endings. We also looked at creating an SSBA website which finally came online in 2005. The website was successfully revamped in 2009, and the site you’re looking at now is the third incarnation, launched in December 2016.

The first presentation evening was held at Waterstones book shop in Eastbourne. Four of the five authors were able to attend and hear the winning title announced, which in 2004 was Montmorency by Eleanor Updale. Excited students were then given the opportunity to meet and talk with the authors. This for them was the highlight of the award and the buzz lasted for weeks!

Since then, we have moved into the prestigious Roedean School theatre for our awards ceremony and it is attended by three times the amount of young judges as the first year. Over 300 pupils from all around the south of the UK flock to the Brighton seafront to hear the authors speak, get excited about the winning book, and meet the authors. Even if we had achieved nothing else, 300 students gathered to celebrate books is the most valuable achievement there is.

“The Southern Schools Book Award has the potential to become one of the top teenage awards going”
An observation from author Celia Rees at the 2005 Presentation Evening.