Twelve teams of students from around Great Britain and Ireland recently gathered to put their public speaking skills to the test at the national final of Rotary Youth Speaks: A Debate.
In the first edition of the competition since COVID-19, the teams gathered at the Laurence Sheriff School in Rugby, with an audience of around 200 in attendance to watch the debates.
Each of the teams had three students taking the role of Chairperson, Proposer and Opposer and they had 15 minutes to present their debates to the audience and a panel of judges.
There were six teams in the Intermediate category (ages 11-13) and another six teams competing in the Senior category (ages 14-17).
A wide variety of topics were debated over the course of including children’s books, social media, the current voting age and the prison system, all delivered excellently and effectively grabbing the attention of the audience and judges.
The Senior category was won by the team from Queen Elizabeth High School – who had travelled all the way from Carmarthen, South Wales – which consisted of Violet Lloyd, Anna Duffy and Holly Whittal-Williams.
The debate they presented questioned the practice of public speaking itself and the girls had been coached and mentored by their school’s former English teacher Hugh Griffiths and teacher Elinor Ward.
Speaking to In Your Area, Queen Elizabeth High School’s headteacher, Dave Williams, said: “I am incredibly proud of Violet, Holly and Anna.
“They have worked incredibly hard, and continued to refine their performance to meet the challenge presented at each new level of the competition.”
Winning the Intermediate category was Beechwood Park School’s team of Aidan Burger, Josh Davies and Tommy Hubback, who had come from Markyate, Hertfordshire.
The team debated whether the monarchy should be abolished, a serious topic that the young students tackled with a good amount of humour to balance it out.
Speaking to The Herts Advertiser, Beechwood Park School’s interim headteacher, Maureen Cussans, said: “The whole school is incredibly proud of this phenomenal team performance by Aidan, Tommy and Josh.
“They have worked hard to get to this level, supported the whole time by the indefatigable Mrs Beavis as she has tirelessly coached and nurtured them to this outstanding success.”
The teams that came runners up in each category were St Anne’s Catholic School from Southampton (Senior) and Rookwood School from Andover, Hampshire (Intermediate).
There were also individual prizes given out for the best Chairperson, Proposer and Opposer in each category. Those prizes went to:
- Intermediate Chair – Aidan Burger (Beechwood Park School)
- Senior Chair – Violet Lloyd (Queen Elizabeth High School)
- Intermediate Proposer – William Nias (Rookwood School)
- Senior Proposer – Anna Duffy (Queen Elizabeth High School)
- Intermediate Opposer – Joshua Davies (Beechwood Park School)
- Senior Opposer – Annabel Cullington-Doss (St Anne’s Catholic School)
Rotarians Ray Bevan and Ashley Gray were the questioners at the event and Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation and partners of Rotary Great Britain and Ireland, provided the adjudicators.
The Rotary clubs of Rugby and Rugby Breakfast also provided vital help on the day with stewarding, timekeeping and general assistance to those in attendance.
Thousands of entrants from across Great Britain and Ireland had taken part in local, district and cluster heats organised by their local Rotary club, with everyone who took part in Youth Speaks receiving a certificate for their participation.
Rotary Youth Speaks: A Debate is one of many youth competitions organised by Rotary Great Britain & Ireland and it is designed to support and encourage the development of effective communication skills for young people.
Click here to find out more about Youth Speaks as well as the other exciting youth competitions Rotary Great Britain & Ireland offers.