This TVLP competition ran in April 2021 to celebrate the writing abilities of students in years 7, 8 and 9 across our schools.

Thanks to the support and assistance of our wonderful English departments, we had 47 pupil entries from five of our schools: Beechwood School, Eton College, The Langley Academy, St Mary’s School Ascot, and The Windsor Boys’ School.

Our judge, Catherine Smith, (who gives some useful writing advice at the bottom of this page) had the challenging task of choosing a winner.


by Caspar Whitwam, Eton College.

You make me wear white
You make me wear black
You take my phone 
To help me sleep at night
I ask – it’s not an attack:
Leave my hair alone.

Falling like a curtain
It is my defence 
Curling at my collar
Locks make me certain. 

Read the full poem by clicking here.

Our judge’s comments:

From the opening line, the narrator’s voice is clear and engaging. With confident use of rhyme, this poem explores the frustrations of a life hemmed in by rules and expectations – where the length of hair is their one means of self expression. The imagery is striking, particularly in the final stanza, and the last line is terrific. 


by Sienna Roos, St Mary’s School Ascot.

The lights go out. The spotlight is on me
As the music turns on I feel alive and free.
I flow to the lyrics with beauty and grace
Performing the choreography at a slow constant pace.

Then the music goes up to a faster speed
I feel like the music is all I really need.
I try to ignore the hundreds of faces;
Focused on my travel to different spaces.

Read the full poem by clicking here.

Our judge’s comments:

This poem’s first lines are strong and compelling as the narrator pulls the reader directly into the ‘setting.’ Throughout the poem, the narrator shares the physical and emotional experience of doing what they love – where they feel most authentic, most themselves. ‘Reality’ is suspended – the act of dancing becomes the narrator’s whole world.


by Firdows Ahmadi, Beechwood School.

Be yourself, no need to change yourself to become someone else.
Be normal, do things your own way.
Be brilliant, think highly of yourself.
Be creative, have a big imagination.
Be confident, dream big.
Be proud of who you are.
Be caring and sharing, help people around you.
Be honest, no need to lie.

Read the full poem by clicking here

Our judge’s comments:

This poem makes very good use of the ‘listing’ technique in poetry – where instruction/ideas build, and where the narrator’s exuberant tone and belief that what they are writing is worth saying is delivered with unfussy verve. The first and final lines have a lovely circularity – the first line a fuller explanation, the final line a distillation – Be you.  


Listed below in no particular order.

by Daniel Groves, The Windsor Boys’ School.

by Leonora Jungels-Winkler, St Mary’s School Ascot.

by Ayanah Smith, The Langley Academy.

by Alex Duguid, Eton College.

by Aine Pickford, St Mary’s School Ascot.

by Bryan Ho, Eton College.

by Chloe Flower, St Mary’s School Ascot.

by Hector Dennis, Eton College.

by Ellis Lehane, The Windsor Boys’ School.


We would like to thank our judge, Catherine Smith, who volunteered her time to read through all the great entries. Her assistance and expertise is greatly appreciated.

Catherine has some useful advice to all our students below.

“Thanks and admiration to everyone who entered – writing isn’t easy, it’s always a risk, and no one should feel they are any ‘less of a writer’ if their poem wasn’t chosen on this occasion. Simon Armitage tells a wonderful story of how his primary school teacher didn’t choose a poem he wrote when he was 11 to feature in a display. He’s now the Poet Laureate.”
“One tip for anyone entering competitions where a theme is suggested for entries – give your poem a proper title, one that’s specific to YOUR poem, perhaps picking up on a particular word or phrase or image or theme. The title is an important part of the ‘work’ of writing a poem. You might start off with one title and by the time you’ve written your poem, another one seems better…that’s fine, that’s part of the process.”

“I was struck by how many entries were rhymed. Rhyme can be great, and unify your poem in terms of sound patterns, but also consider if you really need to make all (or any) of your lines end-rhyme; maybe you don’t need it – non-rhyming poetry can be very powerful, too. The best way to develop your poetry is to read lots, and write lots.”

“And when you write – read each draft out loud – you’ll hear the rhythm, but also the ‘clunks’ – the words that don’t feel/sound right, the line breaks that aren’t in the best place. If you can, ask someone else to read your poem aloud to you; you’ll hear it in a different way, and that can be really useful.”

“The Foyle Young Poets of the Year annual anthologies are freely available to schools from the Foyle Foundation/Poetry Society ( and are really inspiring in terms of showcasing poems using a variety of forms, structures and approaches.”

“Thanks again to all the students who entered the competition. Everyone who wrote a poem should be proud of themselves.”