Poetry by Heart 2021

Classic - 2 poems - A national championship

The CLASSIC competition is the long-running Poetry By Heart national championship. The search is under way to find 10 excellent individual reciters of poetry in each key stage from 2 to 5 and from all regions of England. These 40 students and their teachers/school librarians will be invited to a very special finalists’ events in late Spring 2021, where we will crown a national champion in each key stage.

It starts in school

It all starts with a school/college competition with at least 3 competitors in each key stage. Everything you need is in your competition kit in the Teaching Zone. Using our judging criteria and scoring, you select your key stage winner and then get ready to upload your entry to the national competition. One winner from each key stage can be entered per school or college.

Individual students learn 2 poems, one pre-1914 and one post-1914

In your school/college competition, individual competitors recite 2 poems from the Poetry By Heart website, one published before 1914 and one published in or after 1914. Our timeline anthologies have been curated with specific age groups in mind, but students may choose poems from any timeline – or any of the showcase collections. Students may mix two poems from separate timelines or showcases, as long as there is one poem from each of the pre-1914 and post-1914 categories.

We only remind students, teachers and parents that reciting more advanced poems won’t offer any competitive advantage, but a 17 year old A Level student would have to work quite hard to convince a judge that their choice of a very simple children’s poem was a wise choice for the key stage 5 national competition. But never say never – and what is most important is that the poem is right for the child or young person.

For key stage 2 pupils, the recommended choices are set out for them in the Learning Zone (all free, no login needed) in Choose A Poem 7+

For key stage 3 pupils, the recommended choices are set out for them in the Learning Zone (all free, no login needed) in Choose A Poem 11+

For key stage 4 pupils, the recommended choices are set out for them in the Learning Zone (all free, no login needed) in Choose A Poem 14+

For key stage 5 pupils, the recommended choices are set out for them in the Learning Zone (all free, no login needed) in Choose A poem 16+

Entering the national competition – a simple video upload

To enter the national competition, the school/college makes a separate video of each poem your winner(s) performed – if you have one key stage 3 entrant, that’s two videos, one for each poem. All we want is a simple point-and-shoot video – no cuts, edits, music or special effects. Students can rehearse as much as they like and you can do as many takes as you like until they’re happy with their entry. Then you’ll fill in a straightforward online entry form for each key stage winner, and use our new drag-and-drop video uploader to attach your video files. We’ll keep them safe and secure for judging, with all due regard to safeguarding.

What happens next – the county judging round 

In the next phase of the competition, our judges (poets, poetry experts and educators) first select the best student performance in each county of England in each key stage. We use exactly the same judging criteria and scoring system as in the school/college competition. In each county, we honour a County Winner and a Runner-up, Highly Commended and Commended performances. Every single student entered receives a Poetry By Heart certificate recognising their achievement, with individual feedback about their poem performances. Some students at all levels will be invited, via their schools and with parental permission, to have their video poem performances featured on the Poetry By Heart website.

What happens next – the national finalists

The county winners go through to a regional round of judging. The judges select the best student performance from each of the nine regions of England – North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands, West Midlands, East of England, London, South East and South West. There is one extra ‘wild card’ place to make up the 10 key stage finalists in each key stage. They will compete to become Poetry By Heart national champions for 2020 and perform at the finalists showcase event at the British Library in London in Spring 2021 (date to be confirmed as soon as Covid-19 allows us to). The costs for one pupil and one teacher/librarian (or other adult chaperone) to attend are all covered. Trophies will be awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in each key stage, and all 40 Classic competitors will also receive a fabulous goody bag of reading-related prizes.

In 2021, one national finalist from key stage 4 or 5 will be chosen to represent England in a special student performance showcase at the hugely prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize awards ceremony in Toronto in June 2021, with all costs for one pupil and one teacher or other chaperone provided.

Entry deadline: 28th February 2021.