English: The Stowe Verse Speaking Finals

Today saw the renewal of the Stowe Verse Speaking Competition. Every child in the school has spent that last couple of weeks learning, by heart, a poem of their choosing – some even wrote their own. Each pupil then performed their poem to their class and at least two from each form were chosen to go through to the final. There were actually two finals – a Junior Final for Years 3, 4 and 5 and a Senior Final for Years 6, 7 and 8. There were 11 finalists in the Junior competition with poems ranging from ‘Daddy’s making Dinner!’ by Jeff Mondak and ‘Me Stew’ by Shel Silverstein to ‘Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf’ by Roald Dahl. The judging panel was made up of 16 staff who gave marks in four categories – memory, voice, performance and empathy. Prizes were awarded for the best pupil in each year group and there was also an overall winner.

Hot on its heels, the senior competition comprised 26 entries – the largest field ever – and 20 judges. There was an extraordinary breadth of poetry, including ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling, ‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley, ‘Henry King’ by Hilaire Belloc, ‘Lockdown’ by Tom Howard, ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ by Wilfred Owen and ‘The Apple Raid’ by Vernon Scannell; three of the finalists had written their own poem. Again, prizes were awarded to the best performance in each year and there was also a senior overall winner.

The quality of the children’s recitations was phenomenal – it had been hard enough to choose who was going to get through the early rounds as the level was so incredibly high. The finalists were all word perfect and their performances utterly engaging. There was no doubt that they had really understood their poems and were able to convey the feelings and emotions of each poem to the audience.

The judging was so close that in the Junior competition there were only 2 marks between first and second place; in the Senior competition it was even closer with only one mark separating the top two! Congratulations should go to all the finalists but especially to Jasper, Sophia, Fergus and Patience (the overall winner) in the Juniors and Xander, Willow, Will and Holly (the overall winner) in the Senior competition.

Finally my thanks to all the judges, to the live audience (how lovely to be able to perform in front of a live audience at last!) and to the English teaching staff for helping the children prepare and perform their poems.