2019-20 Competition

Competition information for Poetry By Heart 2019/20

Since 2013 there have been five national poetry recitation competitions for secondary school pupils and college students in key stages 4 and 5. This year Poetry By Heart is now for key stage 2 and key stage 3 pupils as well. We are also offering more competition options. And we are making stronger connections with the assessed curriculum.

By taking part in Poetry By Heart pupils explore poetry widely, find poems they like and share them by learning them by heart and performing them to others. There have to be at least 3 pupils competing within the competition rules but the format is flexible so you can adapt it and make it your own.

The heart of the competition is in the school or college: It’s all about listening to each contestant sharing a poem they have chosen, and their listening to their peers do the same, and the special occasion of the school/college competition event.

Poetry By Heart also offers progression beyond your school/college competition to a national finals event. Schools/colleges can enter a video of their winner’s performance for judging in the county and regional stages of the national poetry recitation competition, culminating in a prestigious live national finals event in March 2020, hosted by the Poetry Society and judged by top poets.

This year there are separate competitions for key stage 2, 3, 4 (and 5*) but all of them follow the same general principles. Read on to find out how the new competitions work.

More detailed rules, judging guidance and the new timelines of poetry for each key stage will be posted on the website in time for the school/college rounds to begin after the autumn half term break.

Rules of the game

The 2019-20 Poetry By Heart competition will run from 1st November 2019 through to Valentine’s Day on 14th February 2020.

It only takes 3

It only takes 3 pupils to have a key stage competition –
but you can, of course, make it as large as you like! Poetry By Heart’s previous regional and national champions have come from both large and small competitions. As long as you follow the Poetry By Heart competition rules and judging guidance, it’s up to you.

Enter one key stage category or more

To get started, you need to decide which competition categories you’re going to include in your school/college competition. In each key stage category you need to have 3 contestants. You can choose just one category or you can have more.

Two poems

All contestants in each key stage are required to learn and recite two poems they have chosen. These poems must be chosen from the new age-related Poetry By Heart timeline anthologies and showcases available on the website after October half term. One of these poems must have been written before 1914 and one of them afterwards.

Competition coordinators

School/college competitions are organised by school staff. Competition coordinators are often English and drama teachers, literacy coordinators and school librarians though this is not a requirement – it’s up to you!

Judging process

All contestants must be judged by Poetry By Heart’s criteria. You will be able to download key stage specific score sheets and judging guidance on 28th October.

Progressing to the national competition

Once you have your key stage winner(s), you simply make a video of their performance and upload it to our secure Poetry By Heart online judging system by midnight on 14th February 2020. Or send it to us by another arrangement agreed with the Poetry By Heart office. All the details will be on the website.

Videos of school winners’ performances will be judged by an experienced Poetry By Heart panel of poets and educators to choose the county winners and regional winners for each key stage competition.
The 10 regional winners in each key stage will be invited to the prestigious Poetry By Heart national finals event in March 2020, organised by the Poetry Society and judged by top poets.
All of Poetry By Heart’s communication about the competitions is with the school/college competition coordinators.
You can talk to Lily at Poetry By Heart for advice about any aspect of your Poetry By Heart competition, or about Poetry By Heart’s poetry resources.


0117 905 5338

Other changes to this year’s Poetry By Heart

This year we are offering some additional options for competition entry. All the conditions above apply.

Choral reading

You can enter your pupils for a group choral reading of a poem from the Poetry By Heart website. This can be in addition to or instead of the individual competition entry. There will be three national prizes in this category and special commendations.

Teacher competition

Teachers and other members of school staff can have their own competition. Same rules apply with any two poems from any sections of the website. We’re looking to find three national champions!

Other Poetry By Heart celebrations

If you want to use Poetry By Heart’s website and approaches in a poetry festival or event that is not part of our competition, then you can enter the special Poetry Celebration category. Talk to us about your ideas.

Set texts for GCSE

We are offering more poems from GCSE anthologies in the new website collections, including the new Romantic Poetry showcase. Key stage 4 contestants can choose to recite one of their set poems in the competition.

Key stage 5 – it’s alive!

Poetry by Heart is funded by the Department for Education for pupils in England at key stages 2, 3 and 4. There will still be a key stage 5 competition but we’re still working on the funding for that. Maybe there will be a small entry fee, maybe we’ll find a new funder soon. Details will be announced after October half term.

Schools in England – and beyond

The Poetry By Heart competition is funded for schools in England. We are happy to talk to teachers from further afield about how to set up their own competitions on the Poetry By Heart model.