Changing Lives through Poetry

Forward Arts Foundation champions the enjoyment, discovery and sharing of poems – through National Poetry Day, the Forward Prizes, and, most exciting of all, through extraordinary projects that show how poetry can change lives.

Since 2015, we have supported the poet-teacher Kate Clanchy and the students of Oxford Spires Academy – pictured – with poetry books, funding and advocacy.  The results have been phenomenal: pupils at this multi-lingual comprehensive in a run-down corner of East Oxford have won prizes across the board, from the Betjeman Prize to the Foyle Young Poets, have been featured on the BBC, Channel Four and in the national press.  Kate’s own story is in her new book Some Kids I Taught and What They Taught Me


The schools’ poets, including many first generation migrants and refugees, have since achieved great things: one, a law student, has been called to the bar; another won an international scholarship to Goldsmith’s to read politics; others are enrolled at universities from St. Andrews to Bath.

“We show our pupils that it is normal to write poetry regularly,” says Kate Clanchy. “Poetry is our school’s top sport.” You can read about how we started to work together here in our report The Poetry Takeover – which has lesson plans, poems and activities as well as the nitty-gritty of how to change a school, verse by verse, line by line, metaphor by metaphor.

If you want this to happen elsewhere, buy the book England: Poems from a School (Picador) – and help us get copies into as many schools as possible, so that the approach that has transformed Oxford Spires Academy can be applied elsewhere. We are working with Teachers’ Reading Groups, run by the Open University and UKLA, to make this happen: if you know a school that would welcome the opportunity to be involved with these groups, contact us. You can fund Kate’s continuing work through our JustGiving page.

The Forward Prizes for Poetry

The Forward Prizes celebrate the best contemporary poetry, making a selection of the year’s most striking new poems available each year in print and online through the annual Forward Book of Poetry. They also encourage the writing of poetry and criticism by students aged 17-19, through the annual Forward/emagazine Student Critics Competition. This calls for responses to a selection of poems on the Forward Prizes shortlist and is a great way of encouraging students to connect creatively with new poetry. In 2019, the competition will be judged by poet Daljit Nagra:  the winners will be announced at the Southbank Centre on 20 October

A compilation anthology, Poems of the Decade: An Anthology of the Forward Books of Poetry, is currently on the A Level English Literature specification (EdExcel). We work closely with the English and Media Centre on an annual A Level conference starring leading poets featured in this book.

National Poetry Day

Through National Poetry Day on Thursday October 3 2019, we enable every school and library in the nation to participate in a UK-wide celebration, involving reading, writing, listening and performing poetry. The National Poetry Day website features great resources, competitions, downloadable poems and showcases the 2019 NPD Ambassadors.

We work closely with the BBC, publishers, booksellers and leading poetry, literacy and education organisations to ensure that participation is open to all. And if you want your event – however small or big – to be listed on the NPD map as the day draws near, give us the details here.