Two Year 11 Teams Compete in English Speaking Union Churchill Public Speaking Competition
By Miss Gordon, Public Speaking Co-Ordinator
This year, we had two teams from Year 11 representing NHEHS in the national ESU Churchill Public Speaking Competition. Sponsored by the International Churchill Society, this is the largest competition of its kind in England and Wales, with around 400 teams (each comprising a speaker, questioner and a chairperson).
The first round took place on Monday 27th November.
NHEHS Team A were Ishani A (Chairperson), Tryphena L (Speaker), and Dain K (Questioner).
NHEHS Team B were Isabella P (Chairperson), Maya M (Speaker), and Roma S (Questioner).
This competition is always a fun and spirited event, in which each team’s Chair and Questioner are partnered up with the Speaker from another school to run a fascinating discussion about a topic. With only 15 minutes for Chairs and Questioners to interview their speaker before the event starts, it is a valuable opportunity for students to practice thinking on their feet, gaining important life skills in conducting interviews and hosting events.
To prepare, the teams met several times with Miss Gordon at lunch times and after school to help hone and refine their speeches, and practice their iterative questioning skills.
Ishani and Isabella, in their roles as Chair, really set a warm and welcoming tone to proceedings, injecting a sense of curiosity about the speakers’ chosen topics (in this case, ‘Is the ballot stronger than the bullet’, and ‘The extent of racism in the film industry’ by students at Harrow School and Haydon School).
Ishani gave a concise summary in her close, using quotes from her speaker’s talk and outlining what she most admired about his stance. She also asked insightful questions during other debates, drawing on her History iGCSE knowledge to enquire about the extent to which historic racism, seen through films such as ‘Birth of a Nation’ might ever be overcome. Isabella’s close was similarly effective, linking speaker ideas on international relations and patriotism to conclude the debate.
Tryphena spoke for 5 minutes with such conviction and aplomb on her topic, “What is there left to explore?” with well-researched lines of argument covering, quite literally, all aspects of our universe. She also responded to tough Q&A, making an important point that even if we are physically limited by circumstances in our ability to travel, our classroom studies and learning is a limitless exploration in itself. She deftly drew upon her history knowledge but own ideas to explain how war might also prove an agent of explorative change, as seen in the Cold War, and how explorations by NASA led to collaboration with Honeywell Corp to create smoke and toxic gas alarms now used in our homes!
Maya used her 5 minutes to capture the imaginations of her audience in arguing that, “Fiction can teach us more than fact.” She successfully persuaded many audience members to change their minds and see the value in the alterity and insight that fiction can bring in enriching our lives. She also responded with powerful ideas to her Q&A session, linking her topic to the dangers and blurred lines of online news content and fake news.
Dain and Roma excelled in their roles as Questioners, asking succinct questions that allowed speakers from other schools to develop their topics. Adopting an encouraging, non-combative tone, they truly exemplified how a good interview can deepen everyone’s understanding of concepts. Roma demonstrated true lateral thinking in posing a question on whether patriotism might have more beneficial effects than aforementioned, such as when used for enlistment purposes in WWI.
After the event, the three judges (the ESU Host, an Educational Publicist, and a former Finance Director) had a hard task in deciding which teams would progress to the next round. We were delighted that NHEHS B made it through, with NHEHS A narrowly missing out. That said, comments and feedback from the judges was instructive and encouraging, duly praising their skills in this, their first attempt at a public speaking competition.
Huge congratulations to all six!