Title Page


Our School

Going to School


Going to School in the Country

Going to School in Town

The Lollipop Lady

Marbles in my Pocket

I’ve Got an Apple Ready

Bus to School

The School Bus Breaks Down

The Schoolboy

First Day at School

School Bell

The New Boy

In the Classroom

In Hall

Morning Prayers

I Went Back

From the Classroom Window

From the classroom window

Timothy Winters

Against Idleness and Mischief

God Made the Bees

My Teacher

Rodge Said

Teacher’s Pet

The Description of a Good Boy

Maths Problems

Maths Lesson Rules

Exercise Book

Tingle-tangle Titmouse


Punctuation Puzzle


A was an Archer

A Good Poem


The English Language

The English Succession

Willy, Willy


The Dunce



The Bully Asleep


Upon Pagget

Deborah Delora

The Toe Picker

The Marrog

Scribbled on the Fly-leaves in Old School Books

Good News

Board Rubber

Last Lesson of the Day





Speech Day

Wycombe Abbey Song

School Song of Godolphin and Latimer School, Hammersmith

Pontefract and District High School School Song

School Dinners

A Child’s Grace

Dinner Lady

Dinner Lady

School Dinners

Cherry Stones

Blotting Paper Pudding

Poor Simon Benn

Table Rules for Little Folk

Table Manners

Scottish Grace


The Battle

Children’s Song

Dips – to Start a Game

Clapping Games

Jumping Game

Child’s Bouncing Song

Ball Bouncing

Skipping Rhymes

Belfast Skipping Song




The Fight

The Bully

Hill Rolling


I’m a Man

Choosing Sides

Here are the Football Results

Football Game

The Pass


There’s a Breathless Hush in the Close Tonight

I Ran for a Catch

The Name of the Game


Games Lesson – Rounders

Out of School


School’s Out

Out of School

Walking from School

11 Bus

Top-secret School

After School

Parents’ Evening


A Little Mistake



Hymn for Saturday

Sitting on Trev’s back wall on the last day of the holidays trying to think of something to do

The Porter

The Barber

What Would You Like to be When You Grow Up, Little Girl?


Psychological Prediction


More School Verse



Going to School

Summer Goes

The Old School Bus

The Good, the Bored and the Ugly

First Primrose

The False Knight and The Wee Boy

It’s School Today

Red Cows

The Wind

First Day at School


School Thoughts

School Buses

Impressions of a New Boy

First Day at School

This ’Ere School

I Don’t want to go to School Today

The School

Sounds of School

On a March Morning

Go Away and Shut Up

Oh bring back higher standards

The Magician

I Don’t Know

Red Ink

The Computer

School Pupils

Ten Little Schoolboys

Johnson Broke my Ruler, Sir

The Fight

The Rebel Child

Playing Truant

The Leader

When I was lonely

The Loner

Us Dreads

I am a Deemmun

The Bully


The Bully

Dumb Insolence

That’s Me

A Stomach-ache is Worse Away from Home

The Lesson


The Bionic Boy

Tom’s Bomb

Government Health Warning


Big Jim

The Changeling



The PS Room


Write a Poem


Schoolpoem 2


Six Times One

In the Garden

The Painful Way to Multiply

1 × 2 is 2

Hullo, Inside


A Survey of Sovereigns

The School at the Top of the Tree

Millicent and the Nature Ramble

My Picture


How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird


The High School Band

Keeping the Score

Friday Morning Last Two Lessons is Games Day

Winter Sports

A Wet Football Game

Kevin Scores!

Jolly Hockey Sticks!


I Love to do my Homework

The Last Exam

Bad Report – Good Manners

School Report

In the Playground

Morning break

In the Playground


Skipping Songs

Skipping Song

Counting-out Rhymes

Counting-out Rhyme

The Blue Ball

Ball Bouncing Rhymes

Whip Top


Down in the Meadow

The Alley-Alley-O


Back in the Playground Blues

Winter Playground

School Food

Whole Duty of Children

Come to the Cook-house Door

Martha Munch

Dinner Queue Dilemma

School Dinners

James Bond comes to Lunch

School Gravy

Drinking Fountain

Pancake Day

A Peanut sat on the Railroad Track

I Eat My Peas With Honey

School Teachers

Distracted the Mother said to her Boy

New Teachers


He Who owns the Whistle rules the World

Words with Teacher

A Close Shave

A Teacher

A Schoolmaster’s Admonition

Writing Right

If the Teacher was a Robot

A Teacher from Harrow

A Teacher from Leeds



Miss Norma Jean Pugh, First Grade Teacher

I was Mucking About in Class

School Pets and Other People

Tashy the School’s Rabbit

The Goldfish

Zebra Crossing


Mr Fitzsimmons

Mr Mole

The School Nurse

After Adrian Mitchell – We Liked His Stuff!

Intelligence Test

Aristotle and Ballcocks

Going Home

There’s a Ladybird on Carol’s Hair

The Last Lesson of the Afternoon

Evening Schoolboys

For a Junior School Poetry Book

Oh, Joyous House

Walking Home

School’s Over

Author’s Acknowledgements


Index of titles

Index of first lines



This book is for Henry and Sophie,
With love

Author’s Acknowledgements

Very many people have helped me to gather together the poems in this book – a lot of friends, teachers, parents and children, especially children. I would like to thank them all, but particularly, my assistant, Graeme Curry, for his imagination, hard work and everlasting fund of good ideas; and also June Shirfield and the children in her class at Downton Primary School; Greta Pike; Sandy Mason; the Salisbury Times and Journal; St Edmund’s Arts Centre Writers’ Workshop; the Director, Wiltshire Library and Museum Service; the library of ILEA’s Centre for Language in Primary Education; and the many Beaver Bulletin Readers who sent in their favourite school rhymes.


Our School

I go to Weld Park Primary,

It’s near the Underpass

And five blocks past the Cemetery

And two roads past the Gas

Works with the big tower that smells so bad

me and me mates put our hankies over our

faces and pretend we’re being attacked

by poison gas … and that.

There’s this playground with lines for rounders,

And cricket stumps chalked on the wall,

And kids with their coats for goalposts

Booting a tennis ball

Around all over the place and shoutin’ and arguin’

about offside and they always kick it over

the garden wall next door and she

goes potty and tells our head teacher

and he gets right ratty with

everybody and stops us playin’

football …

… and everything.

We have this rule at our school

You’ve to wait till the whistle blows

And you can’t go in till you hear it

Not even if it snows

And your wellies get filled with water and your socks

go all soggy and start slipping down your legs

and your hands get so cold they go all

crumpled and you can’t undo

the buttons of your mac when

you do get inside …

… it’s true.

The best thing is our classroom.

When it’s fine you can see right far,

Past the Catholic Cathedral

Right to the Morris Car

Works where me Dad works as a fitter and sets off

right early every morning in these overalls

with his snap in this sandwich box and

a flask of tea and always moanin’

about the money … honest.

In Hall we pray for brotherly love

And sing hymns that are ever so long

And the Head shouts at Linda Nutter

Who’s always doing wrong.

She can’t keep out of trouble because

she’s always talkin’

she can’t stop our teacher says she

must have been injected with

a gramophone needle she talks

so much and

that made me laugh once

not any more though I’ve heard it

too often … teachers!


Loving your enemy sounds all right

Until you open your eyes

And you’re standing next to Nolan

Who’s always telling lies

About me and getting me into trouble and about

three times a week I fight him after school

it’s like a habit I’ve got

but I can’t love him even though

I screw my eyes up real hard and try like

mad, but if it wasn’t him it

would be somebody else

I mean

you’ve got to have enemies …

… haven’t you?

We sing ‘O to be a pilgrim’

And think about God and heaven

And then we’re told the football team lost

By thirteen goals to seven

But that’s not bad because St Xavier’s don’t half have

big lads in their team and last time we played

they beat us eighteen one and this time

we got seven goals …

… didn’t we?


Then we have our lessons,

We have Science and English and Maths,

Except on Wednesday morning

When our class goes to the baths

And it’s not half cold and Peter Bradberry’s

fingers went all wrinkled and blue last week

and I said, ‘You’re goin’ to die, man’

but he pushed me under the water and I had to

hold my breath for fifteen minutes.

But he’s still alive though …

… he is.

Friday’s my favourite day though,

We have Art all afternoon

And I never care what happens

’Cos I know it’s home-time soon

And I’m free for two whole days but I think

sometimes it wouldn’t be half so good

having this weekend if we didn’t have five






Would it?

Gareth Owen




‘Now, pray, where are you going?’ said


‘To school, sir, to school, sir,’ said


‘What have you in your basket, child?’ said


‘My dinner, sir, my dinner, sir,’ said


‘What have you for dinner, child?’ said


‘Some pudding, sir, some pudding, sir,’ said


‘Oh, then, I pray, give me a share,’ said


‘I’ve little enough for myself, sir,’ said


‘What have you got that cloak on for?’ said


‘To keep the wind and cold from me,’ said


‘I wish the wind would blow through you,’ said


‘Oh, what a wish!’ What a wish!’ said


‘Pray, what are those bells ringing for?’ said


‘To ring bad spirits home again,’ said


‘Oh, then I must be going, child!’ said


‘So fare you well, so fare you well,’ said




Going to School in the Country

A long walk,

two miles or more,

up hill and down, before

I get to the school gate;

I do not stop and talk

to anyone on the way,

and I am never late.

At eight o’clock today

I passed by Gunter’s farm,

the men were making hay,

and then I met a herd of cows

lumbering along;

they meant no harm,

and over the fields where Gunter ploughs

each spring, a lark rose up in song;

at the end of the tall-hedged lane,

two cottages and a rick,

and there I peeled a hazel stick;

at half past nine was there,

beating a shower of rain,

ready for Miss Jones and morning prayer.

Leonard Clark


Going to School in Town

A long walk,

half a mile or more,

over four noisy roads, before

I reach the high school wall,

covered with pictures in chalk,

and hear the playground bell call

us into our lines.

I go past twenty shops, a shellfish stall,

and through a smelly tunnel where

the sun never shines,

and then across the square,

around a corner by the old King’s Head

and there must wait,

do what my teacher said,

for the green light to say

that I can cross the road;

bus after bus every day

and lorries each with a different load.

And then I am

dodging the factory where they make jam,

and at last run into school there,

ready for Mr Smith and morning prayer.

Leonard Clark


The Lollipop Lady

The Lollipop Lady is not

as tall as the lollipop

but she shines in the wet.

Some days I forget

about her, and stop

with a skid in a puddle

and there is her red and white bubble

all of a sudden, twice.

The Lollipop Lady is nice;

she sorts out the muddle

and holds my hand

and stops the cars with her magic wand

so I can walk, where there aren’t any stripes,

past huge big lorries and motor bikes

which roar and shake and

smoke like dragons; but all of them wait

for the Lollipop Lady’s wave –

for the children. When she

smiles and nods at me

I can cross the road. If I’m as brave

as her when I grow up, I could be

a shining Lollipop Lady.

Jane Whittle


Marbles in my Pocket

Marbles in my pocket!

Winter-time’s begun!

Marbles in my pocket

That rattle when I run!

Heavy in my pocket

On the way to school;

Smooth against my fingers,

Round and hard and cool;

Marbles in my pocket,

Blue and green and red,

And some are yellow-golden,

And some are brown instead.

Marbles in the playground,

Big and little ring –

Oh, I like playing marbles,

But that’s a different thing.

Marbles in my pocket,

Smooth within my hand,

That’s the part that’s nicest;

Do you understand?

Marbles in my pocket

To rattle when I run!

For winter days are here again,

And marble-time’s begun!

Lydia Pender

I’ve Got an Apple Ready

My hair’s tightly plaited;

I’ve a bright blue bow;

I don’t want my breakfast,

And now I must go.

My satchel’s on my shoulder;

Nothing’s out of place;

And I’ve got an apple ready,

Just in case.

So it’s ‘Goodbye, Mother!’

And off down the street!

Briskly at first

On pit-a-pat feet,

But slow and more slow

As I reach the tarred

Trackway that runs

By Hodson’s Yard;

For it’s there sometimes

Bill Craddock waits for me

To snatch off my beret

And throw it in a tree.

Bill Craddock is leaning

On Hodson’s rails;

Bill with thin hands

And dirty nails;

Bill with a front tooth

Broken and bad;

His dark eyes cruel,

And somewhat sad.

Often there are workmen,

And then he doesn’t dare;

But this morning I feel

He’ll be there.

At the corner he will pounce …

But quickly I’ll say

‘Hallo, Bill, have an apple!’ –

In an ordinary way.

I’ll push it in his hand

And walk right on;

And when I’m round the corner

I’ll run.

John Walsh


Bus to School

Rounding a corner

It comes to stay.

Quick. Grab the rail!

Now we’re off on our way …

Here in the bus though

There’s plenty to see:

Boys full of talk about

Last night’s T.V.

Girls with their violins,

Armfuls of twigs

And flowers for the teacher.

Bartlett and Biggs

Conductor who chats with them,

Jokes about cricket;

Machine that flicks out

A white ribbon of ticket …

Conductor now waiting,

Firm as a rock,

For Billy, whose penny’s

Slid down his sock,

Conductor frowning,

With finger on handle:

Poor Billy blushes,

Undoes his sandal …

‘Hold very tight, please!

Any more fares?’

Whistling conductor

Goes clumping upstairs …

Boots up above, now!

Boys coming down! …

Over the hump bridge

And into the town.

John Walsh

The School Bus Breaks Down

As up the hill the school bus goes,

Just listen how it puffs and blows.

It coughs and splutters as it tries

To drag its body up the rise,

Until at last it wearies out

And stops. Then with a joyful shout

The children jump down to the ground

And laugh and skip and run around.

‘We’ll all be late for school! Hurray!

It’s not our fault!’ they chant with glee.

‘Sit down. We’ll soon be on our way!’

The driver roars. ‘Don’t crowd round me!’

He takes a crank, and twirls it round.

The boys and girls soon hear the sound

Of engines turning. In they hop.

And with another start and stop

The bus moves off. With downcast face

Each child sits in his normal place.

‘School after all!’ they sadly say.

‘I thought we might have missed today!’

Phyllis Telfer and Hermea Goodman

The Schoolboy

I love to rise in a summer morn

When the birds sing on every tree;

The distant huntsman winds his horn,

And the sky-lark sings with me.

O! what sweet company.

But to go to school in a summer morn,

O! it drives all joy away;

Under a cruel eye outworn,

The little ones spend the day

In sighing and dismay.

Ah! then at times I drooping sit,

And spend many an anxious hour,

Nor in my book can I take delight,

Nor sit in learning’s bower,

Worn thro’ with the dreary shower.

How can the bird that is born for joy

Sit in a cage and sing?

How can a child, when fears annoy,

But droop his tender wing,

And forget his youthful spring?

William Blake

First Day at School

A millionbillionwillion miles from home

Waiting for the bell to go. (To go where?)

Why are they all so big, other children?

So noisy? So much at home they

must have been born in uniform.

Lived all their lives in playgrounds.

Spent the years inventing games

that don’t let me in. Games

that are rough, that swallow you up.

And the railings.

All around, the railings.

Are they to keep out wolves and monsters?

Things that carry off and eat children?

Things you don’t take sweets from?

Perhaps they’re to stop us getting out

Running away from the lessins. Lessin.

What does a lessin look like?

Sounds small and slimy.

They keep them in glassrooms.

Whole rooms made out of glass. Imagine.

I wish I could remember my name

Mummy said it would come in useful.

Like wellies. When there’s puddles.

Yellowwellies. I wish she was here.

I think my name is sewn on somewhere

Perhaps the teacher will read it for me.

Tea’cher. The one who makes the tea.

Roger McGough

School Bell

Nine-o’Clock Bell!

Nine-o’Clock Bell!

All the small children and big ones as well,

Pulling their stockings up, snatching their hats,

Cheeking and grumbling and giving back-chats,

Laughing and quarrelling, dropping their things,

These at a snail’s pace and those upon wings,

Lagging behind a bit, running ahead,

Waiting at corners for lights to turn red,

Some of them scurrying,

Others not worrying,

Carelessly trudging or anxiously hurrying,

All through the streets they are coming pell-mell

At the Nine-o’Clock




Eleanor Farjeon

The New Boy

Slowly he trundles into school clinging tightly to his mother’s hand,

Crying a little.

He holds his mother’s dress shyly.

Children stand like giants to him when he is just a scared mouse.

In the cloakroom the giants push around him

To reach their pegs.

He feels like a football.

Karen Aldous (aged 7)



In Hall

‘All things bright and beautiful …’

How many late today?

There’s mud all up the front staircase,

What is she going to say?

It’s hot in here, I’m going to sneeze.

‘All creatures great and small …’

A spider’s dangling over her!

Where is it going to fall?

It might land softly in her hair –

would she feel it, d’you suppose?

Or, if it swung a little bit,

it might settle on her nose.

‘All things wise and wonderful …’

The teachers stand in line.

It’s only got an inch to go!

This may be a sign.

Oh, land on her, please land on her!

‘The Lord God made them all …’

Then she’ll forget she saw me there –

I was here, in Hall,

I wasn’t late, I didn’t leave

my footsteps on the stairs …

Oh! Spider, you must hurry up,

she’s halfway through the prayers.

Spider, spider, burning bright …

‘Three girls I want to see.

Where are you? You, and you, and … Oh!

What’s this? Oh dear! Dear me!…’

A hundred eyes, eight hairy legs,

A shadow on the wall.

I wasn’t there, I wasn’t late.

The Lord God loves us all!

Jane Whittle


Morning Prayers

Late September, conker time,

Back at school the children file

Into the assembly hall.

Smells of freshly polished floors,

Disinfectants, sunlight soap,

Familiar sounds and smells will long

Recall those early days of school.

The day begins with morning prayers.

Headmaster strides into the hall,

Crowlike in black flapping gown,

And as the clock is striking nine,

He calls out, ‘Silence please.’

And prayers begin.

The youngsters, like automatons

Repeat the words in all the same

Uncomprehending monotones,

‘Ah Father wishart in Heaven,

Harold be thy name….’

E. Graham Yooll

I Went Back

I went back after a cold

And nothing was the same.

When the register was called

Even my name

Sounded queer … new …

(And I was born here too!)

Everyone knew more than me,

Even Kenneth Hannaky

Who’s worst usually.

They’d made a play

And puppets from clay

While I was away,

Learnt a song about Cape Horn,

Five guinea pigs were born.

Daffodils in the blue pot,

(I planted them)

Bloomed, and I was not

There to see.

Jean had a new coat

And someone, probably George,

Smashed my paper boat.

Monday was a dreadful day.

I wished I was still away.

Tuesday’s news day.

I took my stamps to show,

Made a clown called Jo,

Learnt that song from John …

Cold’s almost gone …

And … the smallest guinea pig,

Silky black and brown thing,

I’m having

Till spring.

Gwen Dunn

From the Classroom Window

Sometimes, when heads are deep in books,

And nothing stirs,

The sunlight touches that far hill,

And its three dark firs;

Then on those trees I fix my eyes –

And teacher hers.

Together awhile we contemplate

The air-blue sky

And those dark tree-tops; till, with a tiny

Start and sigh,

She turns again to the printed page –

And so do I.

But our two thoughts have met out there

Where no school is –

Where, among call of birds and faint

Shimmer of bees,

They rise in sunlight, resinous, warm –

Those dark fir-trees.

John Walsh


From the classroom window.

From the classroom window.

I can see trees looking like bands of

black lace.

The fringe of grass protecting the

frightened fence like tall thin body


The small sparrows black birds and

magpies looking like little midget

witches swooping down on their broom

sticks to get some food.

Neil Bartlett (aged 8)


Timothy Winters

Timothy Winters comes to school

With eyes as wide as a football—pool,

Ears like bombs and teeth like splinters:

A blitz of a boy is Timothy Winters.

His belly is white, his neck is dark,

And his hair is an exclamation-mark.

His clothes are enough to scare a crow