Poetry by Heart Competition

From Poetry by Heart

Resource type: Competition

Price band: Free

Key stage: KS2, KS3, KS4, KS5

Region(s): England

The Poetry by Heart Competition is a national poetry speaking competition for schools and colleges in England. The competition is open to pupils in KS2 through to KS5.

To take part, young people choose poems they love, learn them by heart, and perform them in a school or college competition. Teachers then record and submit a video of the winning performances for review by a panel of expert judges. Resources, activities, tips and ideas to support schools and colleges wishing to take part are available.

There are two competition categories for young people:

  • Classic: This National Championship is a solo competition where the young person must learn and perform two poems from the Poetry by Heart website – one published in or after 1914 and the other published before 1914. National Championship judging follows a formal set of criteria and focuses on voice, understanding, performance and accuracy.
  • Freestyle: The Freestyle category is a celebration for solo, pair, small group and whole class performers. Young people learn and perform one poem of their choice from any time period and can include any combination of voice, movement, costume and music. Freestyle selection focuses on a compelling and original performance of the poem.

Schools can submit up to three entries per key stage for both the Classic and Freestyle categories. In addition, schools can enter up to three entries by members of staff or trainee teachers for the Freestyle category.

Finalists in the National Championship and selected participants in the Freestyle category are invited to perform at a Poetry by Heart Grand Finale event at Shakespeare’s Globe in London where the National Champions for each key stage are announced.


  • The 2024 competition is open for video entries from National Poetry Day until the 28th March 2024.
  • The participants selected to perform at the live Poetry by Heart Grand Finale are announced in May.
  • The Poetry by Heart Grand Finale event will take place on 1st July at Shakespeare’s Glob Theatre in London.

Cost: Free with registration.

About Poetry by Heart: Poetry by Heart was founded in 2012 by former UK Poet Laureate (1999-2009) Andrew Motion and educator Julie Blake as a way to encourage young people to explore and engage with poetry. It is now a collaboration between The Full English; The Poetry Archive; The Poetry Society; Forward Arts Foundation/National Poetry Day; the English Association; the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education;  the National Association for the Teaching of English; Homerton College, University of Cambridge; Shakespeare’s Globe and Oxford English Dictionary.

Further resources:

  • Find hundreds more poems that pupils can choose to perform on the Poetry by Heart website.
  • Charlotte Bourne, Head of Learning and Engagement at Poetry by Heart explores the mutually beneficial relationship between poetry and oracy in our blog. Find out how learning and performing a poem by heart can help young people develop vital oracy skills.
  • The CLiPPA (Centre for Literacy in Primary Poetry Award) is the UK’s leading award for published children’s poetry. The accompanying Shadowing Scheme provides participating primary schools with the opportunity to take part in a poetry performance competition.
  • The National Poetry Centre for Primary Schools provides a comprehensive bank of resources to support the teaching of poetry in the primary classroom.
  • Find more resources to support the teaching of poetry here.

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