WINNING a school art competition can usually guarantee little more than a book token.
For 10-year-old Jennifer Leigh, however, her artistic skills have landed her the trip of a lifetime.
The primary six pupil’s prize is a six-day, all expenses paid trip to Beijing and Chengdu in China with her mum and dad.
The Mary Erskine and Stewart’s Melville Junior School pupil triumphed in a schools contest which was launched to celebrate the arrival of giant pandas Yang Guang and Tian Tian in Edinburgh.
Jennifer, who lives in the New Town, will visit pandas in Sichuan province, which has the world’s largest population of the black-and-white bears – after beating competition from 1400 others across the UK.
Two pupils from Jennifer’s school were shortlisted – primary six’s Benedetta Benzoni and primary five’s Lulu Paterson, who ranked joint third in the final.
The Panda Pals contest was organised by the Chinese embassy and supported by the Confucius Institutes across the UK.
Jennifer, who spent weeks perfecting her colourful picture, said: “I was very shocked and excited to learn that I was the winner because all 15 finalists’ pictures were excellent. I was just so stunned – I really didn’t expect it. My mum and dad are very proud of me, and I am very proud to represent Edinburgh in China because we have two pandas in our zoo in Edinburgh at the moment.”
She added: “I’m really excited about going to China. I think the pandas will be really sweet and it will be fun to watch them roaming in their habitat.”
Jennifer’s drawing shows Yang Guang and Tian Tian at the zoo, with Edinburgh Castle in the background.
Headmaster Bryan Lewis said: “We are very proud that three of our girls have achieved national success in this important competition.
“The girls are very proud that their entries were selected, and we are delighted that Jennifer will now have an opportunity to see pandas not just in Edinburgh Zoo, but in their natural habitat in China.”
The winners were announced at a recent ceremony at the Chinese embassy in London. The final was hosted by the Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming.
Ambassador Liu said: “The giant pandas in Edinburgh provide an excellent opportunity for us to share creativity between British and Chinese kids.
“Panda Pals is aimed at engaging UK kids in pandas, conservation and Chinese culture.”
Director of conservation and research at Edinburgh Zoo, Iain Valentine, added: “Edinburgh Zoo is thrilled that the overall winner of the Panda Pals drawing competition was from a school here in Edinburgh.
“The standard of drawing was phenomenal throughout the competition, and now Jennifer has the fantastic opportunity to travel to China and see the pandas in Sichuan province, where of course our two very own giant pandas, Tian Tian and Yang Guang, lived before their journey here to Edinburgh Zoo.”