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Poetry Together

Swaffield School’s Poetic Knights unite young and old with poetry

Pupils from Swaffield Primary School in Wandsworth, London, have linked up with “seniors” at Friendship Group, West Side Church to prove how powerful the written word can be when it comes to bringing different age groups together.

The Year 3 pupils taking part are members of Swaffield’s Knight School, an award-winning programme organised by Swaffield which enables children to learn old-fashioned values that will help them in the modern age.

Swaffield has a 10-year strong relationship with Friendship Group, some of whom are former Swaffield pupils, and this time our children got together to learn a poem and recite it in unison. The fun Poetry Together event took place at Swaffield School following National Poetry Day to highlight the benefits of learning poetry by heart and bridging the gap between generations. The children and their senior friends, ranging in age from seven years old to 97 years old, recited Be Glad Your Nose Is On Your Face” by Jack Prelutsky in front of an audience of Swaffield pupils, teachers, staff, and parents.

Poetry Together is a national campaign spearheaded by broadcaster, author, and former MP Gyles Brandreth, supported by Dukes Education. It highlights benefits from improved memory and speech development to increased confidence, from learning and reciting poems.

 BBC Radio 4 Just a Minute star Gyles enthused: “I love poetry and want to share the joy of learning a poem. The idea is beautifully simple – to get young and older people to learn the same poem and then get together to perform it and have tea. It’s free, great fun, and bridges the gap between generations to the benefit of everyone.”

Two of our Swaffield pupils loved the experience:

Sadie said “I liked working with Friendship Group because it wasn’t just us helping them to learn the poem, they helped and encouraged us too. Learning a poem together was fun.”

Nathaniel’s view was “I liked that four boys and four girls are able to get together and just have fun and all be friends. I also liked that we could spend time with older people and just make better friends.”

Keith Brownnutt, a long-standing member of West Side Church Friendship Group explained how the participants worked together to bring the poem to life

“Poetry Together is about expression of the written word with young and seniors working together. As well as reciting the poem, great fun was had by us all in doing actions to the words and in using the rise and fall of our voices to give expression. I am certain that we who are in Friendship Group have learnt a lot from the Swaffield Knight School children.”

Leah Gwynne, Vice-Chair of Governors at Swaffield School said

“Learning and reading poetry embeds a positive, reciprocal relationship between word knowledge and reading comprehension; with reading being the key to unlocking the rest of the curriculum, it is vital that we instil a love of reading from an early age. This initiative is a perfect way to do that, whilst engaging with the local community, in particular, those members with so much to offer our young people. I hope that our friends at West Side Church also feel the benefits of learning and reciting poetry, which has been shown to stave off early onset dementia.”

The inspiration for Poetry Together came after Gyles Brandreth made a radio programme last year about the value of learning poetry by heart, featuring University of Cambridge research that showed how learning and speaking poetry benefits both younger and older people. Every participating school is receiving a copy of Gyles’s new anthology of poems ‘Dancing By The Light Of The Moon’.

The initiative is backed by Dukes Education, a group of schools and education organisations united by outstanding teaching and learning. Founder and Chairman for Dukes Education, Aatif Hassan, explains: “For young people, learning and reciting poems boosts their confidence, speech, memory and attention; for the elderly it can improve brain capacity and reduce memory loss. We’re really excited that Poetry Together is bringing communities together over a shared love of learning.”