About the Competition

Hear From The Students

National finals

Judging criteria NEW!

Essentials for 2015-16

Competition structure

Competition Resources

At the 2015 Poetry By Heart national finals, we took a camera and some questions and spoke to the students from different backgrounds and different schools, unscripted, about their experiences of Poetry By Heart. The result is below. Please share it with everyone you possibly can who may be interested. Spread the word on social media. Put it in newsletters. Show it in classrooms. Show it in assemblies. Send it out into the world!


Hear From The Students from Poetry By Heart on Vimeo.


17-19 March 2016


Homerton College, Cambridge




We are delighted to announce that the 2016 Poetry By Heart finals weekend will be held again at Homerton College, Cambridge. The winners of every county contest – and their teachers/school librarians – are guaranteed an expenses paid place at the finals.

First, there are regional contests to pick regional champions. The 7 regional champions automatically secure a place in the grand final, and there is one extra ‘wild card’ place for the best runner-up.

There will also be extra activities to enjoy, including a special welcome dinner in the Great Hall with poetry readings by some of our poet judges, walking tours of Cambridge and creative workshops.




Student performances in all rounds of the competition must be judged and scored using these criteria.  Please note that these have changed slightly from the criteria used in 2014-15: we have tweaked the scoring and made the poem difficulty category a tie-break matter.

Voice 1-7 points

This category is to evaluate the auditory nature of the recitation.  Consider the student’s volume, pace, rhythm, intonation and pronunciation.  In a strong performance, all words are pronounced appropriately in the student’s natural accent and the volume, rhythm and intonation greatly enhance the recitation.  Pacing is appropriate to the poem.

Understanding 1-7 points

This category is to evaluate whether the student exhibits an understanding of the poem is his or her recitation.  A strong performance relies on a powerful internalisation of the poem rather than distracting dramatic gestures.  In a strong performance, the sense of the poem is powerfully and clearly conveyed to the audience.  The student displays an interpretation that deepens and enlivens the poem.  Meanings, messages, allusions, irony, tones of voice and other nuances are captured by the performance.  A low score is awarded if the interpretation obscures the meaning of the poem or makes use of affected character voices and accents, inappropriate tone and inflection, singing, distracting and excessive gestures, or unnecessary emoting.

Performance 1-7 points

This category is to evaluate the overall success of the performance, the degree to which the recitation has become more than the sum of its parts.  Has the student captivated the audience with the language of the poem?  Did the student bring the audience to a better understanding of the poem?  Did the contestant’s physical presence enhance the recitation, engaging the audience through appropriate body language, confidence and eye contact?  Does the student understand and show mastery of the art of recitation?  The judges will use this score to measure how impressed they were by the recitation, and whether the recitation has honoured the poem.   A low score will be awarded for recitations that are poorly presented, ineffective in conveying the meaning of the poem, or conveyed in a manner inappropriate to the poem.

Accuracy 1-4 marks

A separate judge will mark missed or incorrect words during the recitation. Students will score a full 4 marks for a word-perfect recitation; 3 for a small number of errors which do not significantly affect meaning and/or flow; 2 for a recitation where the errors do affect meaning and/or flow; 1 for a recitation where occasional use is made of the prompter; 0 for a recitation which requires considerable prompting.


Additional considerations in the event of a close tie: variety, difficulty, diversity

In the event of a very close tie between two or more students, judges should consider the the level of challenge the student has chosen. This might be indicated in the variety of poems selected for recitation, with different styles, moods, language varieties, voices or settings. It might also be indicated by poem difficulty. A poem with difficult content conveys complex, sophisticated ideas, that the student will be challenged to grasp and express.  A poem with difficult language will have complexity of diction and syntax, metre and rhyme scheme, and shifts in tone or mood.  Poem length is also considered in difficulty but bear in mind that longer poems are not necessarily more difficult than shorter ones.  Judges may also consider the diversity of a student’s recitations with this score; a student is less likely to score well in this category when judges note that a student’s style of interpretation remains the same regardless of poem choice or challenge.

Schools/colleges that have taken part in previous years should note the changes indicated in red below.


Who can compete?

The Poetry By Heart competition is for students in years 10-13. There is nothing at all to stop you having additional rounds for younger students but only a student in Year 10-13 can represent your school in the county round and beyond. (We’re working on a plan for a Key Stage 3 competition but we haven’t got there just yet!)

When do the school/college competitions take place?

Schools/colleges hold a valid competition between 1st September 2015 and 15th January 2016. All criteria are in the new competition pack we will send to you by 1st September 2016.  NEW – MORE TIME FOR SCHOOL/COLLEGE COMPETITIONS!

How big does a school/college competition have to be?

It only takes 3 eligible students (Years 10-13) for a valid competition (though 33 or 333 are fine too). It can be done on whatever scale you like – in a lunch-hour, a lesson, an assembly, an after-school club or as part of an evening performance.

Which poems do students recite?

In the school competition and the county competition, students recite 2 poems by heart, a pre-1914 poem from the Poetry By Heart timeline anthology plus either a post-1914 poem from the timeline anthology or a poem from the Poetry By Heart First World War Showcase. Your winner can recite the same poems at the county contest, or different ones, as long as they meet the selection criteria, and as long as you inform Poetry By Heart of any changes. NEW – ONLY 2 POEMS IN SCHOOL/COUNTY COMPETITIONS, PLEASE NOTE NEW SELECTION CRITERIA

What happens after the school/college competition?

Your Year 10-13 school/college winner is guaranteed a place in the county contest, run on the same basis as your school competition but with other schools and colleges, and with poets and performers as MCs and judges. However, you MUST register your school/college winner and runner up with Poetry By Heart as soon as possible after your competition, and no later then 15th January 2016. County contest venues and dates will be available by 1st September 2015.

What happens after the county competition?

The county winner and his/her teacher or school librarian are guaranteed places at the expenses paid national finals weekend at Homerton College, Cambridge. Students must be chaperoned by a teacher/school librarian.

What happens at the national finals?

Students recite 3 poems at the national finals: one pre-1914 and one post-1914 poem from the Poetry By Heart anthology timeline and one poem from the Poetry By Heart First World War showcase. There are prizes for competitors at the county contests and national finals, and a handsome trophy, one for the winning student and one for their school or college. The finals are judged by top UK poets and poetry experts. There is also a fun programme of additional activities throughout the winners’ weekend: a festival of poetry as well as a competition.





The 2015-16 search for a new Poetry By Heart national champion starts Monday 25th May 2015. Schools/colleges must register to participate (even if they took part last year) via the registration link on the home page of this website, by email info@poetrybyheart.org.uk or by phone 0117 905 5338.


School/college contests


School/college contests can take place any time from 1st September 2015 to 15th January 2016. As long as at least three students in Years 10-13 compete to become Poetry By Heart school/college champion, it counts as a contest. Only a Year 10-13 student can progress to the county contest. We welcome all sizes and shapes of event, from a lunchtime play-off to a grand gala evening with parents, governors and local media involved. It’s as big or small as suits your school!

In this round, students must recite two poems, one pre-1914 from the Poetry By Heart anthology timeline (on this website), and either one post-1914 poem from the PBH anthology timeline or one poem from the Poetry By Heart First World War showcase (also on this website).


County contests


Each Poetry By Heart school/college champion (as long as they are in Year 10-13) is entitled to a place in their county contest. School/college organisers MUST confirm which student will be entering this next round, and with which poems, as soon as possible after the school/college competition, and no later than 15th January 2016.

In this round, students must recite two poems: as before, one pre-1914 poem from the Poetry By Heart anthology timeline (on this website), and either one post-1914 poem from the PBH anthology timeline or one poem from the Poetry By Heart First World War showcase (also on this website).  This is a change from previous years and should be noted carefully. Students may recite the same poems as in their school competition, or they may change them, as long as the selection criteria are met and the Poetry By Heart team are informed.

In 2015-16 there will be 35 county contests taking place between Friday 29th January 2016 and Friday 27th February 2016. As soon as the venues and dates are confirmed these will be posted here. We intend to have all confirmed by 1st September 2015.


Regional semi-finals and national finals


The winner of each county contest (or the runner-up if the winner can’t progress to the next round for any reason) will be invited to compete at the Winners’ Weekend at Homerton College, Cambridge, Thursday 17th March to Saturday 19th March 2016. The event will progress through a series of regional semi-finals, in which the Poetry By Heart county champions battle for a place in the grand final on Saturday afternoon.

Students are accompanied throughout the expenses-paid weekend by a teacher or librarian from their school/college, and everyone gets to enjoy an additional programme of activities in Cambridge, including meeting the poet judges. On Saturday afternoon, the 2016 Poetry By Heart national champion will be crowned!



Co-ordinator’s handbook (2015-16)
(Screen friendly)

Co-ordinator’s handbook (2015-16)
(Black & White printer friendly)

School/College Certificate

Accuracy Score Sheet

Contest Score Sheet

Judging Criteria

Poetry Promise

Score totaliser