Don’t miss your chance to participate in the English-Speaking Unions competitions 2023-24! You can now register for all three of our domestic competitions (open to schools and educational establishments in England and Wales), with competition activity starting in November.
Last year we had over 600 schools take part in our competitions, and we look forward to making 2023-24 bigger and better than ever. With increasing research demonstrating the positive impact that oracy (speaking and listening skills) has across the curriculum, as well as the benefits to students’ interpersonal and transferable skills, it couldn’t be a better time to develop your oracy provision.
Before we take a look at each of our competition offers in a bit more detail, we want to talk about why we believe competition can be a positive thing – any how to make it have impact throughout your school.
As well as our competitions developing critical thinking, teamwork, oracy and metacognitive skills, the very nature of competitions (and there being only one overall winner) means that students taking part develop resilience in a supportive environment. We focus on learning and development in all our feedback, and our marking schemes are supportive rather than punitive, ensuring that students are always learning, even if they don’t progress.
Competitions also provide students with the opportunity to try things out, to make mistakes and to develop their own interests and skills in a way which the wider curriculum doesn’t always support. It doesn’t matter if they don’t make it past Round 1 – they will have already shown up, developed confidence and speaking experience, and will have something to show for their engagement. Giving students the space to share their views and their voices with students from other schools, and our expert judges, is a unique opportunity.
We are also aware that very often the young people taking part in our competitions may not have other opportunities to shine in school – especially if they aren’t particularly sporty or otherwise outgoing. Our competitions allow all students to thrive, and gives your school a non-sporting competition to celebrate.
The ESU has a long history of delivering high quality debate, public speaking and performance competitions. Participants and winners have gone on to be leading politicians, journalists, educators, lawyers and much more – and many trace their success back to their early engagement with us.
The Schools’ Mace
The prestigious Schools’ Mace debating competition is the oldest and largest debating competition for schools, open to students from Key Stages 3 to 5 in all education institutions across England and Wales. Over several heats of topical, passionate dialogue and debate, students develop their knowledge of the world and current affairs, as well as their reasoning and presentation skills, in a lively, enriching and competitive environment. Past winners include Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy.
Debate is a good way of improving the students’ cultural capital – giving them the skills they need to go into higher education, building up their confidence, and helping them to develop arguments, which translates to their written skills.
Brendan Borer leader of the Debate Club at Mayfield Grammar School
The ESU-Churchill Public Speaking Competition
Our Public Speaking Competition, sponsored by the International Churchill Society, is the largest such contest in England and Wales, with around 400 teams taking part each year (each comprising a speaker, questioner and a chairperson).
The different roles unique to the ESU, and allow students to practise and excel in different skill sets, and the competition’s format, which pairs the speaker from one school with the chair and questioner of another, encourages quick thinking and relationship building. Students don’t only develop their formal speaking skills, but have in-depth support and training in active listening, working as a team and developing key summarising and presentational skills which are rarely given the opportunity to come to the fore.
Most importantly, it’s great fun and a terrific way for students to develop their oracy skills in a friendly, supportive environment.
The PSC has made my daughter more articulate. She’s got a very sharp brain but previously she struggled to articulate exactly what she feels – it used to come out in a bit of a rush and now she’s more measured in how she expresses herself.
Parent of PSC grand finalist
Our Performing Shakespeare Competition inspires students to express their passion, ideas and imagination through the medium of performance, while simultaneously developing fundamental oracy skills. This competition encourages Key Stage 3 and home-schooled pupils in England and Wales to discover and share Shakespeare’s love of language, inviting them to perform a monologue or duologue from any of Shakespeare’s plays, in whichever way they choose. Crucially, students must also introduce their performance, thereby enhancing their public speaking and engagement skills.
Shakespeare is often taught through English, which can leave kids feeling a bit detached from it. Something that was really amazing for us was the fact that this is about the students’ interpretation of Shakespeare – they make it their own and make it relevant – they’ve really enjoyed it.
Eve Dillon, Head of Drama, City of London Academy Shoreditch Park
Find out more
Our Competitions page has all the information you need to register for any (or all!) of our competitions. If you’d like a bit more information before committing, we are running webinars exploring each option in more depth throughout June and July (and then available on demand):
- The Schools Mace, 29 June, 4pm
- ESU-Churchill Public Speaking Competition, 5 July, 4pm
- Performing Shakespeare, 13 July, 4pm
If you would prefer a call back, or have any questions for the ESU Education team, you can email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 020 7529 1565.
We hope to welcome you to one (or more) of our competitions this year!