Our annual Public Speaking Competition provides the perfect opportunity for pupils aged from 8-13 to showcase their eloquence and confidence and this year's online event was no exception.
Our English teachers were particularly impressed by the way pupils rose to the challenge of delivering speeches on screen and how they succeeded in engaging their audiences regardless of physical distance.
This year, to help everyone feel a bit closer and more connected, pupils were asked to take photos of themselves practising their speeches around their homes, or to other members of their family and even their pets! These were then shared as part of a powerpoint presentation shown to pupils at the start of each Public Speaking competition, some of which are also shown here.
Despite the challenges of holding a competition remotely, our Head of English Lucy Thomas was determined to continue regardless. Public speaking is not only a key part of the English curriculum in the Prep School and the first year of the Seniors, but the competition is also greatly anticipated and popular amongst pupils. Most of them relish the opportunity to openly share their ideas and thoughts on a topic they feel strongly about, as Chloe (winner of 13s competition) explains, 'the Public Speaking Competition allows you to talk about something you are passionate about and to spread a positive message and it gives you a chance to hear about everyone else's passions and learn new things.'
Public speaking allows you to talk about something you are passionate about and it gives you a chance to hear about everyone else's passions and to learn new things.
Chloe M., 13s winner
When asked why there is such an emphasis on public speaking, Lucy Thomas says, ‘we feel it is important to teach not just reading and writing but spoken communication as well - being able to express yourself articulately is a fundamental life skill that needs to be nurtured throughout a child's education.’ Furthermore, public speaking, in the form of a Spoken Language Endorsement, is now a required component of GCSE English Language that our 13s pupils are currently preparing for.
Being able to express yourself articulately is a fundamental life skill that needs to be nurtured throughout a child's education.
Ms Lucy Thomas, Head of English
Beccy Edge (8s Form Teacher and Key Stage 2 English Co-ordinatorl) is also keen to point out the value of starting them young when she says, 'we start preparing them for this competition from the 8s so that they become used to it and to ensure they all have the opportunity and time to develop into confident, expressive individuals; qualities that lie at the heart of our school ethos.'
As in previous years, every pupil in the 8s to 13s delivered speeches to their class and in turn listened to those of their peers. They then had to choose the best speaker to be their class representative in the competition. Once chosen, our finalists took to the 'Google Meet' or 'Zoom' stage again and spoke in front of a judge, as well as to their entire year group.
All the talks were of such high standard and covered a broad and creative range of topics. Some tackled big issues like global warming, mental health, the refugee crisis, tobacco industry, the need for better LGBTQ+ education and the dangers of gambling whilst others talked about subjects more personal to them, like a love of chess, why the weekend should be extended or the benefits of having a pet dog.
Even on screen, our finalists’ passion for their subject really came across and the way in which they responded to unexpected questions from the audience with such clarity was notable.
English teachers were impressed by how much resilience the pupils showed throughout the Public Speaking unit as it was taught to them entirely remotely. 'It is hard enough having to stand up in front of your class but to have to learn how to be an effective speaker online required even more creativity and imagination,' says Lucy Thomas, Head of English. 'The fact that it was so hard to decide on the class finalists and runners up proved that this year the quality of the speeches did not diminish despite trying circumstances.'
It is hard enough having to stand up in front of your class but to have to learn how to be an effective speaker online required even more creativity and imagination.
Ms Lucy Thomas, Head of English
When asked about the challenges of this year's competition, Hamish, winner of the 12s competition says, 'it was easier as no one was looking at me but it was quite challenging presenting to my computer screen and worrying about the camera and the mic.' Emily, winner of the 10s competition, however found it much harder speaking to a screen and missed the adrenalin that comes with standing on the theatre stage.
It was easier as no one was looking at me but it was quite challenging presenting to my computer screen and worrying about the camera and the mic.
Hamish M., 12s winner
For all the challenges, this year's competition had much to recommend it. One of the highlights for Carina Makris, English Teacher and Key Stage 3 English Co-ordinator, was seeing the way in which the children supported each other. 'As teachers it was lovely to see them championing and supporting each other. The speeches are always great, but seeing them back each other is always my favourite bit!'
It was lovely to see all the pupils championing and supporting each other.
Ms Carina Makris, English Teacher and Key Stage 3 English Co-ordinator
Beccy Edge has been equally inspired by her Lower Prep pupils. 'With a little bit of creative thinking, the children were even able to practise and rehearse in small online groups, ' she says. 'Listening to the children as they worked in groups, supporting each other and offering constructive advice has been a joy to see.'
Listening to the children as they worked in small online groups, supporting each other and offering constructive advice has been a joy to see.
Ms Beccy Edge, 8s Form Teacher and Key Stage 2 English Co-ordinator
The judges - Miss Foster, Mr O'Shea, Mr Hooke and Mr Woodard, and former Head of Lower Prep Mrs O'Neill - all faced the challenging task of deciding a winner. After difficult decisions, they were able to award winners from each age category.
Finalists and winners:
Finalists: Kitty S, Isla W. and Matthew J.
Winner: Matthew J. - 'The benefits of laughter.'
Finalists: Raffi P., James F. and Betty C.
Winner: Raffi P. - 'Why cooking should be taught in schools.'
Finalists: Ava M. G., Lucy F., Astrid T.
Winner: Ava M.G. - 'Why we should worry about the future of the planet.'
Finalists: Freya P., Farrah C., Maia F. S., Emily S. and Fiona L
Winner: Emily S. - 'Why we should extend the weekend.'
Finalists: Archie W, Tenzin T., Alfie T., Ioanna D. and Hamish M.
Winner: Hamish M. - 'Why we should all speak Greek.'
Finalists: Chloe M. , Luci M., Anna O., Giulia M, Will B.
Winner: Chloe M. - 'The importance of female football.'
A huge congratulations and thanks to Lucy Thomas, Beccy Edge and Carina Makris, who organised and hosted six events in total between them and to all the English teachers who taught public speaking as a unit, as well as our judges.