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Poetry proven to inspire pupils and boost both writing and reading skills

6 Oct 2016

To mark National Poetry Day, the National Literacy Trust today reveals the positive impact Picture the Poet has had on pupils across the UK. The partnership programme was developed by the National Portrait Gallery, working in collaboration with the National Literacy Trust and Apples and Snakes. Creative writing activities and teacher training were based around an exhibition of portraits of poets which toured six regional venues in Norwich, Sheffield, Preston, Lincoln, Sunderland and Carlisle.

The schools programme, coordinated by the National Literacy Trust, involved 168 teachers from over 100 local schools and saw more than 3,750 pupils visit the exhibition. The seven to thirteen-year-olds were then inspired to write and perform their own verse following literacy workshops run by poets in the exhibition spaces.

The key findings from the Picture the Poet evaluation show that after taking part:

  • 88% of pupils said they know more about poetry
  • 57% feel their writing has improved and 52% say their reading skills have also improved
  • There was an 82% uplift in pupils saying poetry is brilliant (46.2% compared with 25.4% before) and after the programme 55.8% described poetry as fun (compared with 38.2% before) and
  • Just 13.5% of pupils said poetry is hard (compared with 31.3% before)
  •  4 in 10 pupils visited a gallery for the first time

Teachers participated in a day of continuing professional development (CPD) from the National Literacy Trust, held in each Picture the Poet exhibition space. The CPD included lesson plans and resources linked to National Curriculum requirements, and was run in partnership with performance poet Francesca Beard.

91% of the teachers who completed the Picture the Poet evaluation said the training and resource pack had helped them gain new skills and knowledge about teaching poetry and 89% said they enjoyed poetry activities in school more.

To complement Picture the Poet, a resource pack for teachers was created which is full of tips, curriculum links, literacy activities and lesson plans. This is available at along with information about the exhibition and the poets featured with examples of their work.

National Literacy Trust Director Jonathan Douglas said:

“We are delighted to see the positive impact Picture the Poet has had on participating pupils’ attitudes towards poetry and their wider literacy skills. Our work with schools has shown how poetry can help pupils find their own voice in their written work, which builds their confidence in subjects across the curriculum. For almost half the participating pupils, the exhibition was their first experience of a gallery, providing them with a new and exciting stimulus for their writing.

Notes to editors

Picture the Poet toured six venues across the country between May 2014 and March 2016:


Between 5 May and 28 June 2014, 755 pupils from 19 schools visited the Picture the Poet exhibition at The Forum Gallery. Some also visited the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library and visited BBC Voices to have their poetry performances filmed. 


Between 3 September and 29 November 2014, 894 pupils from 23 schools visited Graves Art Gallery and the Central Library. Pupils from three schools also participated in a workshop at the gallery with the poet Ian McMillan, known as the Bard of Barnsley, who performed his own work and challenged pupils to create their own.


Between 24 January and 11 April 2015, 520 pupils from 17 schools visited the Picture the Poet exhibition in the Harris Museum and Art Gallery where they also went on exploratory trails through either the ceramics gallery or the local history section of the museum.


Between2 May and 2 August 2015, 580 pupils from 25 schools visited the Picture the Poet exhibition in the The Collection, Lincoln and took part in writing workshops there. They also had the opportunity to go to the Tennyson Research Centre.


Between 19 September and 29 November 2015, 520 pupils from 18 schools visited the Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens. Many of them took part in workshops led by poet Ian McMillan.


Between 5 December 2015 and 6 March 2016, 500 pupils from  7 schools visited the Picture the Poet exhibition at Tullie House and two schools took part in a workshop led by poet Ian McMillan.


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The National Literacy Trust is a registered charity no. 1116260 and a company limited by guarantee no. 5836486 registered in England and Wales and a registered charity in Scotland no. SC042944.
Registered address: 68 South Lambeth Road, London SW8 1RL.