Coronavirus and Poetry By Heart

From the heart[Poetry By Heart finals event as featured in The Poetry Society’s Spring 2020 Poetry News, which went to press just before everything changed!]


What a difference a few weeks can make! It seems only yesterday we announced the 43 schools and college invited to perform at the primary and secondary national finals events, and yet almost immediately we had to un-invite everyone as first our venues on London’s Southbank closed their doors, followed swiftly by the government’s decision to keep most students at home. We have been working flat out since to transform our exciting face-to-face finals events into something that celebrates all the finalists’ achievements in the best ways possible within the time constraints of the 2019-20 competition year.  We’re also busy getting ready to judge all the wonderful School Staff and Poetry Celebration competition entries, and to give proper feedback and commendation to every single competition entrant.

This is what we’re doing to complete the 2019-20 competition.

Our poet judges are currently judging the finalists’ original video entries.

We will, as planned, select a national champion in each key stage, as well as runners up and special commendations. We’re also working on a plan to capture the poet-judges’ comments about each performance so that we can give high quality feedback to each student of a kind that they would have from each other, from the audience and from judges at the live event. This may also help the finalists to polish their performances for an event later in the year.

We’re working on an enhanced set of prizes for the finalists and their schools.

These packages can’t compensate for the finals event but we hope they will give finalists some poetry ‘treasure’ to enjoy anyway. We’re not sure yet how best to get these packages out but we’re working on it.

We will create a special web showcase all about the 2020 competition.

Where we are able to secure parental consent, we will add videos of the finalists’ best performances, and positive, celebratory commentary from our judges. This will include individual student contestants from all the key stages, as well as some of the very wonderful Poetry Celebration entries and School Staff entries. We will also make a 2020 competition video to celebrate the achievements and to help everyone to look forward to next year’s competition.

We will invite all 2019-20 finalists and their teachers to take part in a celebratory showcase on or around National Poetry Day in October.

Students and teachers will have an opportunity to feature in the spotlight of Poetry By Heart’s promotion as our 2021 competition ambassadors and to meet poets and hear them read. We’re also exploring the possibility of recording them reciting their poems to feature on the Poetry Archive’s website.

We will invite all teachers who completed a 2019-20 competition entry to a free Poetry By Heart ambassadors event.

We can’t set a date or a place for that yet for obvious reasons but we hope this will give us all something to look forward to when things return to some kind of normal.

We will send certificates and letters of commendation for every student (and every school staff member!) who entered the national competition.

Again, we’re not quite sure yet about how and when we’ll send these, but they will come in due course.

During the school closedown, Poetry By Heart will remain open.

We will be developing the website with lots more poems and lots more poetry teaching resources. We’ll be thinking about how we can adapt what we’re doing to support schools and families, students, teachers and parents in enjoying, learning and sharing poetry during the coronavirus outbreak. We will be blogging more frequently, and we will be reviewing all the feedback from this year’s schools in order to develop next year’s competition. In due course we will also launch the 2020-21 competition.

We’re here and if you have the time or inclination to chat to us about any of the above, we’d love to talk to you! The Poetry By Heart office telephone number will have slightly shorter working hours for the time being, from 10.00am to 4.00pm – 0117 905 5338 – or you can email us any time on Our team are all working safely from home and we will do our best to respond to all enquiries within 24 hours.


And to finish, a poem of hope, Sheenagh Pugh’s Sometimes – click the link to read it.


Stay safe and we’ll very much look forward to seeing you, your students and your school or college in the 2020-21 Poetry By Heart competition.


Here are the 2019-20 national finalists again – watch this space for announcement of the national champion, runners up and special commendations. Coming very soon!

Special awards for outstanding engagement 

  1. Becky Dalziel, King Alfred School, Somerset
  2. Natasha Sivadasan, Lister Community School, London
  3. Jenna Markham, Dudley Academies Trust, West Midlands

Key stage 2 finalists

  1. Lexa Keen, St Francis College, Hertfordshire
  2. Busby Bottrell, St. Pirans, Cornwall
  3. Maya Butler, St Thomas A Becket Catholic Primary School, East Sussex
  4. Amaya Jones, Stechford Primary School, Birmingham
  5. Dishan Bindiganvile, Woodland Grange Primary School, Leicestershire
  6. Tabitha Daisy Sherlock, Dame Allen’s Junior School, Tyne & Wear
  7. Gokul Ravishankar, Broadheath Primary School
  8. Anna Litova, Alfred Salter Primary School, London
  9. Seamus Ehrenkranz, Finton House School, London
  10. Nithali Padmasari, St Francis Catholic Primary School, Surrey

Key stage 3 finalists

  1. Aurora Karai, Southened High School for Girls, Essex
  2. Thea Hodges, The Woodroffe School, Dorset
  3. Sara Stupane, Heathlands School, Hertfordshire
  4. Joseph Reid, Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School, Buckinghamshire
  5. Tyla Cockayne, Queen Mary’s High School, West Midlands
  6. Emma Pearson, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Horncastle, Lincolnshire
  7. Temisaren Fregene, St Bede’s and St Joseph’s Catholic College, West Yorkshire
  8. Troy Cook, Durham School, County Durham
  9. Zara Jones, Hartford Church of England High School, Cheshire
  10. Emma Wales, James Allen’s Girls’ School, London

Key stage 4 finalists

  1. Jamila Salim, Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Girls, Hertfordshire
  2. Scarlett Timlett-Sheehan, Colyton Grammar School, Devon
  3. Khanyi Thobela, Hinchley Wood School, Surrey
  4. Evelyn Hammond, Queen Mary’s High School, West Midlands
  5. Luqman Ismail, Judgemeadow Community School, Leicestershire
  6. Sophia Nwachukwu, Woodhouse Grove School, West Yorkshire
  7. Reuben Smith, Whitley Bay High School, Tyne & Wear
  8. Harriet Short, Urmston Grammar Academy, Manchester
  9. Albert Campling, Isleworth & Syon School for Boys, London
  10. Merissa Lawrence, Springwood High School, Norfolk

Key stage 5 finalists

  1. Lara Hagger, Parkside Community College, Cambridgeshire
  2. Isla Defty, South Wiltshire Grammar School for Girls, Wiltshire
  3. Bex Leach, Beaconsfield High School, Buckinghamshire
  4. Rose Smith, Concord College, Shropshire
  5. Courtney Bostock, Huddersfield New College, West Yorkshire
  6. Grace Nevens, King Edward VI Academy, Northumberland
  7. Josh Pinnock, Loreto College, Manchester
  8. Lorenzo Harvey Allchurch, Eton College, Berkshire
  9. Ruby Murphy, Rugby High School, Warwickshire
  10. Caner Aydin, St John Rigby College, Greater Manchester