Maharishi School Poetry Success

Maharishi School students’ success in poetry competitions 

I was Deputy Head and English teacher of Maharishi School in Skelmersdale, Lancashire from 1990-2010, during which time the students were particularly successful in creative writing competitions, particularly poetry. Here are details of those successes, along with quotes by some of the poets who judged the competitions.

Foyle Young Poet of the Year Awards
Organised by the Poetry Society. Over 7,000 entries internationally. Winners and highly commended poets are invited to the prize-giving in the Royal Festival Hall on National Poetry Day. Winners attend a residential poetry writing course led by the poets who judged the competition, and have their poems published in winners’ anthologies by the Poetry Society. More than 56 Maharishi School students had their work highly commended in this competition from 1998 to 2010, in addition to the winners listed below.
Young Poet of the Year Awards 1998 Four Maharishi School students were among the winners, and twelve were highly commended
Young Poet of the Year Awards 1999 Three winners, eleven highly commended
Young Poet of the Year Awards 2000 Cliff Yates was a poet/judge with Kathleen Jamie, therefore no Maharishi School entries.
Foyle Young Poet of the Year Awards 2001 Three winners, five students highly commended.
Foyle Young Poet of the Year Awards 2002 Two winners, six highly commended.
Foyle Young Poet of the Year Awards 2003 Five students highly commended.
Foyle Young Poet of the Year Awards 2004-2010 Several students highly commended every year, and a former Maharishi School student winner in 2007.

Times Educational Supplement Young Poet Twenty-four Maharishi School students had poems published in this weekly column in the TES. Poems chosen and commented upon by a guest poet. Four of our students had their poems published in The TES Book of Young Poets.

WH Smith Young Writers Competition 1996 Maharishi School received a commendation awarded to schools, ‘whose overall standard of entry is good, regardless of individual achievement.’ The judges, ‘admired the highly individual writing of Maharishi School pupils and the surprising and oblique approaches they took to it. Overall they found the work atmospheric and interesting.’ Eleven Maharishi School students won certificates of commendation. Over 30,000 individual entries from 1,300 schools.

WH Smith Young Writers Competition 1997 Three Maharishi School students were among the winners, one was a runner-up and five received commendations. Winners received prizes of £60 and the school was given £250 worth of books for each winner at the prize-giving in London. All winners and runners up were published in the Inky Foot anthology.

WH Smith Young Writers Competition 1998  Two Maharishi School winners and one runner-up published in the anthology, thirteen commendations.

Roald Dahl Foundation Poetry Competition 1996  Maharishi School won the ‘Wondercrump Award’  for the ‘variety and originality’ of students’ poems. Four students were published in the anthology. At the award ceremony in London, the school were presented with a limited edition of Roald Dahl stories. Over 15,000 entries.

Heinemann ‘Get Published’ Competition 1997 To write a children’s book. One winner from Maharishi School, whose book was published by Heinemann. Three of our students were runners-up.

Young Poets on the Underground competition 2000 One Maharishi School student was a winner in this competition. The poem was made into a poster and appeared on the London underground. It was subsequently published in the Poems on the Underground anthology and was made into an animated film for Channel 4.

Childline ‘Hope and Trust’ Poetry Competition judged by Kit Wright 2001 The competition was won by a Maharishi School student. Three of our students were runners-up.

Royal Mail Young Letter Writers’ Competition 1995 One Maharishi School student was among the prizewinners, two won regional first prizes and one received a Certificate of Merit. Over 300,000 entries.

Puffin Poetry  Competition 1994 Two Maharishi School winners, two runners-up. 

BBC Radio 4 Young Poetry Competition 1996 A Maharishi School commendation, published in the anthology (5,000 entries).

BBC Blue Peter/World Wildlife Fund National Poetry Day competiton 1996 A Maharishi School student’s poem was a runner-up (23,000 entries).

Rialto Young Poetry competition Maharishi School winner in 2004, commendation in 2002, both published in The Rialto poetry magazine.

The Queen’s Golden Jubilee Poetry Competition 2002 One Maharishi School runner-up published in the anthology.

Norman Hidden Prize (Poetry Society) 2009 An international poetry competition open to youth members of the Poetry Society. A Maharishi School student’s poem was the only winning poem from the UK. The judges were ‘overwhelmed by the number and quality of entries’. The other two winning poems were written by young poets from Nova Scotia and San Francisco.

Manchester Metropolitan University ‘All Write’ competition included multiple winners from Maharishi School students every year from 2005 to 2010, published in the MUSE anthology.

Oranges: Poems from Maharishi School (Maharishi School Press, 2001) An anthology of award-winning poems with a foreword by Andrew Motion, was a Times Educational Supplement Book of the Week, December 14th 2001. ‘The poems in this book are of an astonishingly high standard…at least two of the poets here are distinctive enough to warrant books of their own. This is where the difference is made between these pieces and poems produced in hundreds of one-off workshops with poets…few teachers or pupils have the breadth of reading to know when a poem is made better by a particular adjustment, and the editing skills to know how to make those changes’– Siân Hughes, review of Oranges in the TES.

Maharishi School students broadcast their poems on BBC Radio 4 Poetry Please, BBC Radio 4 Today programme, the BBC World Service and BBC local radio.

Students’ poems published in over thirty anthologies and other publications including Poems on the Underground (tenth edition), The Times newspaper, TES Book of Young Poets, Poetry Society anthologies of poems by Foyle Young Poets, WH Smith ‘Inky Foot’ anthologies, Wondercrump anthology of winners of the Roald Dahl Poetry Competition, many journals & magazines including the Secondary English Magazine, the Primary English Magazine, and teaching materials published by Folens.

Multiple winners, runners-up and commendations in a number of other writing competitions and opportunities.

‘This is the school to go to if you want to be a poet’ – Poetry Society, 1998.

‘Three years ago, every member of Years 10 and 11 [at Maharishi School] won or was runner-up in a national poetry competition’– Stuart Maconie, Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North (Erbury Press, Random House, 2008).

‘[Maharishi School students’] ideas are wildly different, and they have the confidence not to ask, as so many children do, “Is that okay?” They shape their poems in unique ways and work together, comparing, criticising and encouraging, with startling maturity. Seriousness about writing in general and poetry in particular seems to run through the school. Older pupils discuss their writing and explain what they prefer reading with the sort of intensity usually reserved for music or the football results’ – Kate Clanchy, Times Educational Supplement.

‘Jaw-droppingly mature verse’– Guardian (on the poems published in Oranges)

‘the wonderful batch of submissions from Maharishi School, which are outstanding for their liveliness and originality’ – Mimi Khalvati, TES Guest Poet column.

‘[…] is one of several talented young writers at the Maharishi School whose work was submitted by their teacher Cliff Yates. It was obvious from the quality of the work received from this school, that poetry is enjoyed enormously by the teacher and students. It made delightful and cheering reading’– Maura Dooley, TES Guest Poet column.

 ‘Another young poet from the class of the redoubtable Cliff Yates, where all the pupils, it seems, have metaphors with their morning milk’– Kate Clanchy, TES Guest Poet column.

‘Is Skelmersdale the new poetry capital of England? I think I’d better go to the Maharishi School for a term or two, so that I can start to surprise myself and my readers with a first line like this…’– Siân Hughes, TES Guest Poet column.

As a result of the success of the students at Maharishi School in poetry competitions, I was commissioned to write Jumpstart Poetry in the Secondary School by the Poetry Society, during my time as Poetry Society poet-in-residence. I also received a Poetry Society teacher trailblazer award in 2008 for ‘exceptional dedication to the teaching of poetry.’ For more details see Teaching.