Schools and pupils from across the country gathered on the final day of the Rotary Conference and Showcase in Nottingham for what, for all of the day’s participants, was the culmination of months of local and regional heats, intense research and dedicated rehearsal.
It was of course the Rotary Youth Speaks National final, part of the national programme of Rotary Youth Competitions which engage tens of thousands of young people every single year.
Far from discussing the mundane or trivial, the participants, all aged between 11 and 17 were presenting on some seriously complex, advanced and sophisticated topics.
This provides a benefit for the pupils who get to delve deep into a topic they care about and the outcomes of that make fascinating viewing for the audience, where you can’t help but be educated on something new.
Did you know for example 400,000 young people are seeking mental health support in the UK?
Or that 90% of schools have already cut resources in at least one creative arts subject? Or that there are more FTSE 100 CEOs with the name Dave than there are female CEOs.
Just three of the many things I learned spending two hours in the company of these incredible young people.
Did you know for example 400,000 young people are seeking mental health support in the UK?”
The format of the competition is simple. Each team, made up of three members, has 10 minutes to present on a topic of their choosing.
The Chairperson manages the presentation, the Speaker (the topic expert) delivers a six minute speech and also answers a previously unheard question, while the Vote of Thanks rounds things off by remarking on the content of the speech, perhaps offering comment on some of the specific items raised.
Points are awarded by a judging panel based on a variety of aspects, from clarity of enunciation, demonstration of a clear argument and expression of personality.
Some fascinating topics being presented by #RotaryYouthSpeaks competitors.
We’ve heard about feminism, funding for people with disabilities and the concept of happiness.
— Rotary GB & Ireland (@RotaryGBI) May 12, 2019
In the senior category, it was Brentwood School who took home the top prize. Their team, made up of Alice Grundy, Joel Runevic and Hassan Bajwa, who was also named best Chairperson, presented on ‘The Last Glass Ceiling’.
Their passionate discussion on feminism and the battle for equality captivated the audience.
“We don’t want a head start, but a level playing field, and the only reason we’re rising up is because we started the race in a ditch” valiantly declared Speaker, Alice.
Far from discussing the mundane or trivial, the participants were presenting on some seriously complex, advanced and sophisticated topics.”
The team’s sharp and thoughtful answer to the question of what one change they would make to break the glass ceiling was sure to have played a part in their victory.
“The government should be introducing universal and free childcare for women. We want to smash through the glass ceiling but we’ve ignored the shop floor.” Alice answered.
“Free childcare can ensure they can enter the workforce in the same way men do, so they don’t have to decide between being a mother and having a career.”
Also in the senior category, best Speaker went to the thrilling Aubrey McCance from Hutcheson’s Grammar.
Inspired by the lyrics of the song of the same name, Aubrey’s presentation ‘Weeds or Wildflowers’ was not all that it seemed from the title.
It delicately contemplated legacy and what we leave behind when we’re gone.
“Vincent Van Gogh earned nothing from his paintings. He was ridiculed for his work.” Aubrey said as he slowly paced across the stage.
“Those who plant the seeds of an apple tree don’t always get to the taste the fruit.”
“We want to ensure we give our time to help others, so that we leave wild flowers for other people to benefit from.” A message that chimed poignantly well with an audience full of volunteers who do just that.
Find out more about Rotary’s Youth Competitions and programmes for young people.
1st place: Brentwood School
Hassan Bajwa, Alice Grundy, Joel Runevic
Topic: The last glass ceiling
Sponsoring club: Brentwood a Becket
2nd place: Hutchesons’ Grammar
Owen Gould, Aubrey McCance, Sara Ahmed
Topic: Weeds or wild flowers?
Sponsoring club: Glasgow
3rd place: Katharine Lady Berkeley’s School
Emily John, Ben Frith, Anna Geary
Topic: Don’t worry, be happy. Is it really that simple?
Sponsoring club: Cotswold Tyndale
Best Chairperson: Hassan Bajwa, Brentwood School
Best Speaker: Aubrey McCance, Hutchesons’ Grammar
Best Vote of Thanks: Louisa Rowland, Wilmslow High School
Topic: Funding for disabilities is unfair and unjust
1st place: Tytherington School
Anna Wilkie, Esther Bird, Amelie Mayou
Topic: Should 16 year olds be eligible to vote?
Sponsoring club: Macclesfield Castle
2nd place: Catsmose College, Oakham
Isa Joof, Catherine Hinch, Daisy Wynn
Topic: Modern Farmers and Stress
Sponsoring club: Uppingham
3rd place: King Henry VII School
Lucy James, Alive Neville, Bethan Parry-Jones
Topic: This house believes that teenagers are misunderstood
Sponsoring club: Abergavenny
Best Chairperson: Lucy James, King Henry VII School
Best Speaker: Catherine Hinch, Catmose College, Oakham
Best Vote of Thanks: Saphire Almond-Neate, Frome College
Topic: What happened to feminism?