The virtual 2020 finals – the judges have spoken!

The live finals events for this year’s Poetry By Heart competition had to be cancelled at the very last minute due to Covid-19. As fast as we could, we created an alternative mode of judging this year’s entries. We involved our wonderful poetry judges virtually, we maintained the same high standards of judging and moderation, and we thoroughly enjoyed every performance!

We are now delighted to announce the results of the Poetry By Heart 2020 national finals. We have sent to the school competition organiser certificates, letters and records of achievement with judges’ feedback for every finalist, and we will send prizes to every finalist when we can do that safely and sensibly. Our judges were really impressed by the level of accomplishment all the finalists showed in their video performances, and they’re really looking forward to meeting them at a special showcase event as soon as circumstances allow, hopefully in October.

Thank you to every single school, teacher, school librarian, competition organiser and every student from the littlest in key stage 2 to the biggest in key stage 5, for taking part in Poetry By Heart 2019-20. We’ll be announcing next year’s competition soon and we hope you’ll all join us again for the fun of learning poems by heart and sharing them out loud!

Individual Recitation Competition – 2 poems

The Individual Recitation video performances were judged by a fantastic team of poets and poetry experts, including the poets Glyn Maxwell, Daljit Nagra, Paul Munden, Valerie Bloom, Raymond Antrobus and Joshua Seigal; expert poetry anthologist Allie Esiri, and poetry educators Charlotte Hacking of CLPE and David Whitley of Homerton College, Cambridge. Mike Dixon and Julie Blake from the Poetry By Heart team moderated and adjudicated the process overall to make sure all the contestants were judged fairly and according to the Poetry By Heart criteria.

Key Stage 2 Competition 


National Champion: Seamus Ehrenkranz, Finton House School, London, ‘Limericks’ by Edward Lear and ‘The Eggshell’ by Rudyard Kipling.
2nd Place: Gokul Ravishankar, Broadheath Primary School, Cheshire, ‘Who has seen the wind?’ by Christina Rossetti and ‘Instructions for Growing Poetry’ by Tony Mitton.
3rd Place: Nithali Padmasari, St. Francis Catholic Primary School, Surrey, ‘Someone’ by Walter de la Mare and ‘Please do not feed the animals’ by Robert Hull.

Special Commendations awarded to:
Lexa Keen, St. Francis College, Hertfordshire, ‘The Spider and the Fly’ by Mary Howitt and ‘The Secret Place’ by Dennis Lee.
Tabitha Daisy Sherlock, Dame Allan’s Junior School, Tyne & Wear, ‘Bed in Summer’ by Robert Louis Stevenson and ‘Instructions for Growing Poetry’ by Tony Mitton.


Key Stage 3 Competition 


National Champion: Aurora Karaj, Southend High School for Girls, Essex, ‘I Am’ by John Clare and ‘In Memoriam, July 19, 1914′ by Anna Akhmatova.
2nd Place: Sara Stupane, Heathlands School, Hertfordshire, ‘The Witch’ by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge and ‘Russian Doll’ by Rachel Rooney.
3rd Place: Joseph Reid, Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School, Buckinghamshire, ‘Jabberwocky’ by Lewis Carroll and ‘The Cookers’ by A. P. Herbert.


Special Commendations awarded to:
Emma Wales, James Allen’s Girls’ School, London, ‘The Listeners’ by Walter de la Mare and ‘Tarantella’ by Hilaire Belloc.
Emma Pearson, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Horncastle, Lincolnshire, ‘The Listeners’ by Walter de la Mare and ‘Shakespeare at School’ by Wendy Cope.
Zara Jones, Hartford Church of England High School, Cheshire, ‘Daffodils’ by William Wordsworth and ‘Russian Doll’ by Rachel Rooney.
Temisaren Fregene, St. Bede’s and St. Joseph’s Catholic College, West Yorkshire, ‘Captive Bird’ by Boethius, translated by Helen Waddell and ‘The Door’ by Miroslav Holub.


Key Stage 4 Competition


National Champion: Khanyi Thobela, Hinchley Wood School, Surrey, ‘We Wear the Mask’ by Paul Dunbar and ‘To the Snake’ by Denise Levertov.
2nd Place: Harriet Short, Urmston Grammar Academy, Manchester, ‘Miss Loo’ by Walter de la Mare and ‘The Fish in Australia’ by Andrew Motion.
3rd Place: Reuben Smith, Whitley Bay High School, Tyne & Wear, ‘London’ by William Blake and ‘Peach’ by D. H. Lawrence.

Special Commendations awarded to:
Albert Campling, Isleworth and Syon School for Boys, London, ‘Boat Stealing (excerpt from The Prelude)’ by William Wordsworth and ‘The Beast in the Space’ by W. S. Graham.
Jamila Salim, Haberdasher’s Aske’s School for Girls, Hertfordshire, ‘Paradise Lost (Book 1, II. 242-270)’ by John Milton and ‘What If’ by Benjamin Zephaniah.
Sophia Nwachukwu, Woodhouse Grove School, West Yorkshire, ‘An upper chamber in a darkened house’ by Frederick Tuckerman and ‘Easter Monday (In Memoriam E.T.)’ by Eleanor Farjeon.
Evelyn Hammond, Queen Mary’s High School, West Midlands, ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ by Robert Browning and ‘A Life in Dreams’ by Jacob Sam-La Rose.


Key Stage 5 Competition


National Champion: Grace Nevens, The King Edward VI Academy, Northumberland, ‘The Complaints of the Poor’ by Robert Southey and ‘Langley Lane’ by Jacob Polley.
2nd Place: Josh Pinnock, Loreto College, Manchester, ‘On an Afternoon Train from Purley to Victoria, 1955′ by James Berry and ‘We Wear the Mask’ by Paul Dunbar.
3rd Place: Bex Leach, Beaconsfield High School, Buckinghamshire, ‘Ozymandias’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley and ‘Convalescence’ by Amy Lowell.

Special Commendations awarded to:
Lorenzo Harvey Allchurch, Eton College, Berkshire, ‘They flee from me that sometime did me seek’ by Thomas Wyatt and ‘The Fish’ by Elizabeth Bishop.
Ruby Murphy, Rugby High School, Warwickshire, ‘Invictus’ by W. E. Henley and ‘What the Chairman Told Tom’ by Basil Bunting.


Poetry Celebration Competition

The Poetry Celebration video performances were judged by a team of poets, poetry experts and educators from all the organisations which make up Poetry By Heart’s partnership – the Poetry Society, English Association, Poetry Archive, Homerton College Cambridge and CLPE. Mike Dixon and Julie Blake from the Poetry By Heart team moderated and adjudicated the process overall to make sure all the contestants were judged fairly and according to the Poetry By Heart criteria.

Top 10 national winners

Caterham School, Surrey, individual student recitation, Charlie Smith, ‘The Sleepy Giant’ by Charles E. Carryl.
Berkeley Academy, London, paired student recitation, SB and KS, ‘Little Trotty Wagtail’ by John Clare.
GEMS Didcot Primary Academy, Oxfordshire, group recitation, student group 2,  ‘Please Mrs Butler’ by Allan Ahlberg.
Occold Primary School, Suffolk, individual student recitation, Tia Warnes, ‘How to Cut a Pomegranate’ by Imtiaz Dharker.
St. John’s College, Hampshire, individual student recitation, Harry Wallace, ‘My Mind is Blank’, self-written poem.
St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, London, group recitation, Year 3, ‘Sick’ by Shel Silverstein.
Bowdon Preparatory School for Girls, Cheshire, paired student recitation, Harriet Jackson and Florence Hilton,  ‘The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb’ by Heinrich Hoffmann.
St Piran’s School, Cornwall, group recitation, Key Stage 2, ‘The Fast Food Express’, teacher-written poem.
Urmston Grammar Academy, Manchester, paired student recitation, Yusuf Hassen & Freya Leech, ‘Dulce Et Decorum Est’ by Wilfred Owen.
Wyedean School, Gloucestershire, individual student recitation, Max Rayworth, ‘Mametz Wood’ by Owen Sheers.

School Staff Competition

The Staff competition video performances were judged by Judith Palmer, Director of The Poetry Society, and David Whitley, a fellow at Homerton College, Cambridge, who has research interests in poetry and poetry memorization. Mike Dixon and Julie Blake from the Poetry By Heart team moderated and adjudicated the process overall to make sure all the contestants were judged fairly and according to the Poetry By Heart criteria.

National Champion: James Lofthouse, Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School, Buckinghamshire, ‘In Parenthesis (an excerpt from part 7)’ by David Jones.
2nd Place: Ben Abbott, Hereford Cathedral School, Herefordshire, ‘The Thought Fox’ by Ted Hughes.
3rd Place: Katie Williams, Judgemeadow Community College, Leicestershire, ‘Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf’ by Roald Dahl.

Special Commendation awarded to:

Louisa Tait, Seaford College, East Sussex, ‘Strawberries’ by Edwin Morgan.


Special awards for outstanding engagement 

Becky Dalziel, King Alfred School, Somerset – for getting the whole of her community learning poems by heart, from an RNLI lifeboatman reciting Masefield’s ‘Sea Fever’ to the mayor reciting a poem of his own creation, to inspire her students to take part in the competition. BBC Breakfast made a film!

Natasha Sivadasan, Lister Community School, London – for hosting a wonderful borough-wide inter-school competition involving primaries and secondaries in a wonderful evening celebration of poetry and young people.

Jenna Markham, Dudley Academies Trust, West Midlands – for hosting a fantastic Multi Academy Trust inter-school competition involving pupils in four secondary schools

To everyone who took part who isn’t mentioned here

We’re collating the feedback from the judges for every single contestant and you will soon receive a letter and a certificate via your school/college competition organiser detailing your individual achievements in the competition. Everyone who learned a poem is a winner!