SEND Advocates: Writing Workshop

Jon Severs is Commissioning Editor at the TES (Times Educational Supplement), which has a print audience of nearly half a million 1 every week and an online audience of 1.85 million unique users every month.

On 09/20/2017 Jon led a session for our SEND Advocates, offering guidance on writing, pitching and editing. 

Part One: Writing styles

You can access and download a document compiling different writing styles and annotations from the group here.

Part Two: Pitching

Three things to consider:

  • Why the idea – is it original / different / responsive to current affairs / helpful?

  • Why this magazine?

  • Why you?

Contacting journalists:

Jon gets 150 emails per day. TES content is mainly generated by the education community not journalists - 70% is from teachers parents students and others in education - .

This means the process is more collaborative, and will involve more editing by the TES team.

Never send a finished article - it will likely need to be changed.

Write max two paragraphs:

  • 2/3 sentences giving your idea 

  • Why you are writing the article

  • Why will the readers care? Is it unique, important?

In order to stay relevant read the magazine and stay up to date with the content.


Editors will receive many emails and will open those from names they recognise first. This is because they need to know you’re good to be able to commission a piece, otherwise they risk that the content will be poor or will take lots of time to edit.

It is a useful to make yourself known to journalists, by meeting / emailing / tweeting them  to introduce yourself. Then they will recognise your name when you email them.

Practical info:

Deadline usually 4-6 weeks

Payment: Varies. Consider your employer being paid - you can then write during working hours and won’t handle tax. Always declare your earnings!

Make sure you always ask your school / employer beforehand.

Warning: Writers can be exposed to misogyny and racism on social media
- TES warn writers of this at the pitching stage


Part Three: Editing


Every publication is different - get to know them first by reading regularly.

Keep your own tone of voice but remember it will be secondary to the publication.

You may be edited for structure and asked to add your voice back in.

Be aware of being too conversational.

Keep your intro punchy and short.

A Rough Guide:

Paragraph 1. Hook to draw you in, a teaser that you will explanation later.

Paragraph 2. Explain: contextualise the issue at hand.

  •             People will generally read first two paragraphs and leave, so make it interesting!
  •             Use the first two paragraphs to introduce a question, and then use the rest of the article to give the answer.
  •             Drip feed info to keep the reader interested.

Paragraph 3 onwards. Address the issue and give more information.

  •             Don’t over explain.
  •             Include quotes / links to evidence.
  •             Repeat key words and phrases for emphasis.
  •             Challenge the reader but make sure you don’t alienate them.
  •             Be brutal - cut out unnecessary info.
  •             Read it back to yourself and answer any possible questions.
  •            Remember to keep an open mind during editing. See it as a learning process.

3 Golden Rules:

Always remember you’re writing to an audience

Prove why you’re writing what you’re writing. What do you have to offer? Is it something unique or new?

Be aware that the final product will probably look different. Don’t pitch a finished product - pitch and idea and explain why its important. You’ll then start a collaborative process with the editor.

Some regular writers for TES: 

Whole School SEND