Pupils talk their way to success in competition

Christine Field with Oathall Intermediate team Honey Hipgrave, Nathan Newnham, Fechi Kamalu and their teacher Carly Slade SUS-150312-124500001
Christine Field with Oathall Intermediate team Honey Hipgrave, Nathan Newnham, Fechi Kamalu and their teacher Carly Slade SUS-150312-124500001

The Rotary Youth Speaks Competition is a well established and successful annual competition organised and promoted by Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland.

It is a four stage competition which is designed to support and encourage the development of effective communication skills. Some stages may have more than one round. The Rotary Club of Cuckfield and Lindfield has sponsored teams from local schools for many years.

This national competition offers young people experience in speaking on a public platform as a member of a team, an incentive to formulate ideas on topical subjects, discipline in dealing with a topic in a limited time, the opportunity of learning and practising high standards of expression, presentation and appearance and impartial feedback and assessment of performance by experienced adjudicators.

Teams of three students in full time education in two age groups, intermediate (11 to 13 years) and senior (14 to 17 years) take part.

This year the first round took place at Ardingly College on Monday November 16. Inside the acoustically designed Music Rooms two colleges and one school entered teams. Oathall entered an intermediate and a senior team, Ardingly and Warden Park each put forward a senior team. After an introduction from the Headmaster, Mr Figgis, the competition began.

Oathall’s intermediate team was introduced by their chairman, Honey Hipgrave, with an informed introduction to Nathan Newnham who gave a confident and illuminating talk ‘An Educational Comparison’, looking at the British educational system and those in China, Singapore and Europe.

He was determined and articulate, responding to a question from Rotary president George Ruse with a strong, relevant response. All of this allowed Fechi Kamalu to propose a meaningful and heartfelt vote of thanks.

As they were the only intermediate team, the experienced and insightful judges allowed some extra time to give more focused and relevant praise and comment to an already accomplished team, helping each to recognise the skills they had and the challenges they will meet.

The prize was won and we wish them luck in the next round at the Weald School in Billingshurst.

Fitting into gaps between rehearsals for the school play, the Ardingly senior team took their turn after the interval and gave a colourful verbal tour of the cultural delights of Moscow, ‘Moscow – Terra Incognita’. Ivan Filippov as chairman introduced Olga Krasnenkova as the speaker, who rendered a spirited guide to the Russian capital, earning a fulsome vote of thanks from Matthew Geddes.

Oathall seniors followed with opening remarks from chairman Francesca Weekes, who introduced the talk on ‘The True Value of the BBC’ given by John Moore.

An informed and well researched summary of the benefits and challenges faced by this old and venerated institution followed, covering much ground that would have been beyond the knowledge of the audience.

With a sound and well considered response to a question from our President, John concluded followed by Freddie Guthrie who proposed a solid and worthwhile vote of thanks.

Warden Park, returning to the competition after a few years’ absence, picked up the challenge and spoke last. Chairman Kimberly Mayashamombe introduced her team with precision and deliberation, giving space over to Amelie Maurice–Jones who gave a talk on ‘Creativity in Education’.

This being the second strongly delivered critique of the education system within which the speakers labour the first being from Oathall intermediates, it was significant that neither presented a paean of praise but instead gave thoughtful and well considered views on strengths and shortcomings, with some of which the many teachers present may be familiar.

The answer to the question was diplomatic and well given. Tess Cotterill concluded the team’s efforts with a considered and supportive vote of thanks related to the talk given.

With some deep thoughts, varying viewpoints and recognition of the skills shown by the teams, our judges, Ann Aughwane, retired headmistress of Burgess Hill School for Girls, Anthony Harris from the English Speaking Union and a previous judge of the national finals along with Ron Skinner from Lindfield Dramatic Society, concluded after some time that in a very close result Oathall College had just won the senior first place and would therefore go forward to the next round in February, for which we send them our best wishes.

All contestants received a certificate for taking part and the winners, along with a winner’s certificate, also enjoyed a £20 book token each. Thanks were given to the judges, Ardingly College for being a generous host and to Christine Field, local county councillor and deputy leader of WSCC who generously gave her time to present the Rotary prizes to all the winners.

Report and picture contributed by Rotary Club of Cuckfield & Lindfield.