"˜Youth Speaks"™ Competition: District Final 2016

St Philip Howard School and The Lady Eleanor Holles School both triumph!

‘Youth Speaks’ Competition: District Final  2016 –

St Philip Howard School and The Lady Eleanor Holles School both triumph!

The District Final of the 2016 Youth Speaks Competition was staged by the Rotary Club of Dorking on Saturday 12th March, at St Teresa’s School, Dorking.  The competition is for teams of three, with a Chairman to control proceedings, a Speaker who talks for six minutes on a subject of his/her choice, and the third team member who proposes the Vote of Thanks.  The final is the culmination of initial rounds run by local Rotary clubs, and then three semi-finals.  The Final brought together schools from throughout Rotary District 1145, fought out by four teams at each age group of the competition  - Intermediate (11-13 years) and Senior (14-17 years).  Winning teams go through to compete with others from the Rotary South East in the Regional Finals, with those winners going on to the National Final in May.

In a close fought match, a team of girls from St Philip Howard School, Barnham near Chichester won the Intermediate round, and their Speaker won that individual award.  Mollie Finniear from St Philip Howard put forward three ways to improve the education system from the students’ point of view, citing examples from around the world where her ideas had been tried and found to work – make school attendance optional and not compulsory and give children a choice of the classes they attended, (when tried, at first few went but then all drifted back and it is now a much better environment to learn in, as the children want to go to school!); start teaching foreign languages at a much younger age when one can adapt to the grammar and verb conjugations so much more easily than when she started to learn it at eleven; and not having to bear the burden of a school uniform.  A very lively Rocco Priestley from Bishop Wand School, Sunbury-on-Thames won everyone’s hearts and the best Chair award for introducing his team’s talk on Heroes and Superheroes, positioning himself as a dynamic favourite, a ‘pocket rocket’, despite his diminutive size, and again from Bishop Wand School, Abigail Lucas was voted best Vote of Thanks.

Even more tight was the scoring amongst the Senior teams, and our three adjudicators stressed how hard it had been to separate the two top teams.  Interestingly, Burgess Hill Girls won both best Speaker and best Vote of Thanks awards, while the overall winning team came from The Lady Eleanor Holles School, Hampton, who also had the best Chair.  Eleanor Reffin from Burgess Hill Girls tried very hard to persuade us that vaccinations for such as measles should be compulsory, not a matter of parental choice.  She drew comparisons between two books – Roald Dahl’s ‘George's Marvelous Medicine’ (his own daughter died from measles and he became a proponent of immunisation) and the more recent ‘Melanie’s Marvelous Measles’ – citing the danger’s that unvaccinated children pose to others.  The subject from winners Lady Eleanor Holles was an impassioned plea from Isla Hutchinson, who plans to be a doctor, for us not constantly to run down the NHS but to praise it and promote it for the good it does, to  and be grateful that we have it rather than, as in the USA, where healthcare is available only to those who can afford to pay privately for it.

Other presentations discussed the values of space exploration (the benefits well outweigh the costs and do give value for money); organ donation (we should have an opt-out, not an opt-in approach); poaching (stop it now, or elephants risk being extinct in twenty years or so); and how technology is making the world a smaller place.

We were delighted to have District Governor Peter O’Keefe with us to present the certificates and trophies, accompanied by DGE Frank West learning how to do it for next year, and in case Peter lost his voice!  The individual winners each received a small trophy which they keep, with a similar trophy for each of the winning team, and a (new, for 1145) District Shield that bears the school name and is kept for the one year only.  The winning team also received a £15 i-tunes voucher each.

Organising the event, John Thom from the Rotary Club of Dorking said:  “Thank you to the 8 schools and the 24 participants who all worked so well to give us a splendid day of Public Speaking yesterday at St Teresa's.  Congratulations to all for doing so well, and to their teachers and tutors who I am sure worked so hard to bring them all to this level.

Of course it is a competition and at the end we have winners who are pulled out above the rest, and particular congratulations to them, but we hope that all enjoyed and learned from the experience this whole event has brought them: I am sure you all did.  And we in Rotary certainly look forward to seeing you all back in the competition next year!”

And to all Rotary clubs who do not run a local heat, John added:  “This is such a rewarding competition to run, seeing the effort these youngsters put in to think up, research and prepare and then present their arguments.  To be able to stand and talk with confidence and to talk well in front of an audience is such a boon for later life, and even the eleven year olds we see do so well.  If you have any connections with schools in your area and do not run your own competition, either think of starting one up, or link in with a neighbouring Rotary club who does.  You will not regret it, believe me!”

The photograph gallery shows the two winning teams, Intermediate winners St Philip Howard School and Senior winners The Lady Eleanor Holles School, Hampton, with Rotary 1145 District Governor Peter O’Keefe who presented the trophies.  Following are the individual winners, and the eight teams who participated with the Certificates presented to all.

Winning Team …..        St Philip Howard School,  Barnham
Best Chair ……          Rocco Priestly,  Bishop Wand School,  Sunbury on Thames…
Best Speaker…..         Mollie Finniear,  St Philip Howard School,  Barnham
Best Vote of Thanks ……    Abigail Lucas,  Bishop Wand School,  Sunbury on Thames

Also in the Intermediate Final were The Hinchley Wood School, and St Catherine’s, Bramley
Winning Team …..        The Lady Eleanor Holles School,  Hampton 
Best Chair ……            Leila Legris,  Lady Eleanor Holles School,  Hampton
Best Speaker…..        Eleanor Reffin,  Burgess Hill Girls
Best Vote of Thanks ..…    Elizabeth Geraghty,  Burgess Hill Girls

Also in the Senior Final were Sunbury Manor School, and St Peter’s School, Merrow

(JRMT: 14/03/2016)