AN Oxford teenager has become the first black girl and pupil from an inner city school to win a prestigious national award.

Azfa Ali, who studies at Oxford Spires Academy in Glanville Road, beat competition from 614 young poets from 313 schools to win the Christopher Tower Poetry Prize.

The 19-year-old from Greater Leys entered the contest last year and decided to put forward a poem, Origins, which was a combination of two she had previously written – one about a refugee stuck on a motorway, and another comparing Tanzania and Scotland.

She said: “At first I was a bit overwhelmed when they kept announcing people who were nominated – everyone was very tense. When I found out I had won I cried a little bit.”

The teenager is currently studying A-Levels in English literature, English language, sociology and psychology and is planning to study English and creative writing at Warwick University next year. She said she intended to use the £3,000 prize money to help fund her studies.

Azfa came to Spires for A-Levels, having previously been a pupil at the now-closed Iqra School for Muslim girls in Littlemore.

She was born in Tanzania and moved to Scotland aged six, coming to Oxford five years ago.

She said: “My main focus was on performance poetry and when I got a job with Apples and Snakes, the UK’s leading performance poetry organisation, I thought this is something I can do as a career.

“Now I know I can do page poetry as well, and compete with people my age from private schools. I think I can take my writing anywhere.”

Azfa is the second Oxford schoolgirl to have success in the competition, following in the footsteps of Matthew Arnold School pupil Iona Twiston-Davies, who came second in 2009.

Spires headteacher Sue Croft said: “Azfa has grown so beautifully as a person and as a writer over the past two years. This really shows how far she has travelled. She is going to be a poet, I have no doubt about that.”

Dr Jennifer Orr, who shortlisted the entries, said the process had been challenging.

She said: “Azfa’s poem Origins was one which really stood out.”