Retired English teacher Neil is joint programme secretary for the Brighton branch and promotes the Public Speaking Competition to local state schools.
‘Back in 1960 it was the Brighton branch which started the Public Speaking Competition. It has grown and grown and is now international, but recently it had dwindled locally to just a handful of schools. I felt we really ought to do more to get Brighton state schools involved and we have since formed a good relationship with Brighton Aldridge Community Academy and sponsored a Discover Your Voice workshop for 25 Year 9 students there.
It’s a big school, in one of Brighton’s less advantaged areas, and students often lack the confidence or motivation to speak up. But the school embraced our sponsorship and students certainly discovered their voices that day! Over the six hours with the mentor and myself offering ideas, praise and encouragement, one could see them growing in confidence and creativity of thought and language; it was quite fantastic and very energising.
We’re sponsoring another workshop this autumn, and will enter a Year 10 team in the PSC in January. It’s a small start, but it’s a way forward.’