Congratulations to all the teams who took part in the finals of the ESU-Churchill Public Speaking Competition 2022 at Churchill College, Cambridge, on Sunday, 8 May. From an initial entry of over 400 teams, 13 schools competed in the semi-finals in the morning before the judges chose six – Ibstock Place School, Oundle School, Oxford Spires Academy, Pate’s Grammar School, St Catherine’s School, Bramley, and The Cheadle Academy – to go through to the grand final in the afternoon.
In front of an audience including Laurence Geller, Chair of competition sponsor the International Churchill Society; Jennie Churchill, great-granddaughter of Winston Churchill; and judges including ESU alumna and presenter of BBC Look East Susie Fowler-Watt; the teams then gave their presentations – apparently without a nerve in sight.
Speakers presented engagingly on topics ranging from ‘education puts learning before living’ to ‘The law is rigged for the rich’, with chairs giving lively and often highly entertaining introductions and summations, and questioners ably encouraging the speakers to clarify and expand on their speeches.
The judges had an exceedingly difficult task in arriving at their decision, eventually naming Oundle School in Peterborough (pictured; George, speaker; Iona, chair; and Robert, questioner) as the best team, and Pate’s Grammar School, Cheltenham (Sofiia, speaker; Adel, chair; and Kate, questioner) as runners-up.
The individual awards were as follows:
Best speaker – Flo, from St Catherine’s Bramley, Guildford
Best chair – Adel, from Pate’s Grammar School, Cheltenham
Best questioner – Olivia, from Oxford Spires Academy
Susie Fowler-Watt, chair of the judges, said, ‘I’ve judged this competition for a few years now and the standard today was the highest I can remember. It was absolutely outstanding. The skills the students have demonstrated today – the confidence to stand up in front of an audience and hold the floor; the ability to structure an argument, to dissect an argument and to chair a meeting – these are really important skills that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.’
Presenting the awards, Jennie Churchill, great-granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill said, ‘The tools these teenagers are gaining by doing this are just fabulous. They set you up for every aspect of life – from interviews and finding jobs to becoming company directors – these young people are going places. They’ve got the opportunity and the English-Speaking Union has brilliantly given that along with the International Churchill Society. Winston would approve!’
The prestigious ESU-Churchill Public Speaking Competition, sponsored by the International Churchill Society, is the largest such contest in England and Wales, with around 400 teams (each comprising a speaker, questioner and a chairperson). The different roles allow students to practise and excel in different skill sets, and the competition’s unique format, which pairs the speaker from one school with the chair and questioner of another, encourages quick thinking and relationship building. Past winners include impressionist and comedian Rory Bremner and broadcaster and author Anita Anand.