Prize is a reason to rhyme

Former Blue Peter presenter Simon Thomas yesterday urged youngsters to get behind a major schools poetry competition.

Former Blue Peter presenter Simon Thomas yesterday urged youngsters to get behind a major schools poetry competition.

The television personality, who grew up in Norfolk, is the final stage judge for this year's EDP/Bayer CropScience Young Poets of the Year competition, which is open to school pupils aged eight to 11 in the EDP's circulation area.

The theme for this year's competition is Dreams - and Mr Thomas spoke of how his dream of becoming a Blue Peter presenter came true.

"All of us no doubt remember the dreams we had as children - mine was to play up front for Norwich City and enjoy the adulation of the Carrow Road crowd as I scored in front of the Barclay end," he said.

"Sadly I didn't quite possess the skills to fulfil that dream but I have been lucky enough to fulfil so many other dreams especially during my time as a presenter on Blue Peter. When I was young I used to watch the programme and I used to think what a great job that would be. I kept dreaming about doing that. I didn't expect it to happen, but you have got to go for it and not give up."

Mr Thomas, who now works for Sky Sports, said he was delighted to be a judge for this year's competition and urged youngsters to get involved.

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"Poetry is fun and it doesn't have to be complicated," he said. "It can be very simple and anyone can have a go."

The competition is now in its third year and last year more than 1,100 children entered. There are two age categories, 8 to 9-year-olds and 10 to 11-year-olds.

Prizes include £100 for the winner in each category plus a day at Norwich City FC with £500 for each winning school.

The winning schools also have a chance for a group of pupils to spend the day at Norwich City FC Study Centre which offers programmes in literacy, numeracy and ICT using the appeal of football to engage pupils.

Mr Thomas will pick one winner in each age category from a shortlist selected by Simon Proctor (production editor Archant), Anne Osbourn (John Innes Centre and founder of SAW, which aims to break down barriers between science and the arts), Jonathan Holloway (Norfolk and Norwich Festival director) and Paulene Guise (Bayer CropScience).

The closing date for the competition is July 13 and the two winners will be notified in early September via the schools. Winners will be announced in the EDP in the autumn.

As well as the cash prizes Bayer CropScience has donated £500 each to two charities, Dreams Come True which aims to help fulfill the dreams of terminally and seriously ill children and Mr Thomas's chosen charity, Hope HIV, which helps children in Africa whose families have been affected by Aids.

In May, seven-year-old Lucy Dixon Sell, who was born with cerebral palsy, was presented with a hot pink wheelchair through the Dreams Come True Charity following Bayer CropScience's donation.