Thirteen children with intrinsic spinal cord tumours were seen between 1984 and 1995. In only one was this the presumptive diagnosis at referral, despite a high incidence of characteristic features. Eight had presented to their local paediatrician, four to local orthopaedic teams, and one to a general surgeon. Eleven had back pain. Eleven had either spinal curvature or change in gait. The interval between onset of symptoms and diagnosis ranged from one week to six years, with a mean of 17.5 months. In nine children symptoms had been present for four or more months. In nine, unrewarding investigations had been carried out. This paper highlights typical presenting features of these tumours and how earlier diagnosis can be achieved.