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☰ Speech Competition

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Speech Competition

Posted on November 26 2020

Speech Competition

“A Covid wash-out! No Speech Day this year. No class rounds, no certificates, no final, no brave performances by our budding thespians and bards,” said… no one!

We knew it was going to be tricky to pull off our annual speech competition this year. There were guidelines about large gatherings to take into account, and hygiene, and ventilation in the hall, and the necessity of keeping our bubbles separate while taking part in a whole-school event. However, giving up is not in our nature – there is always something we can do to make the magic happen, and that is reinforced in our school motto: the show must go on! Yes, those famous FPP words that encapsulate—wait! Those aren’t the right words! But oh well, they’ll do just as well - in the words of the legendary Freddie Mercury… the show must go on... and on the 12th November, it most certainly went.

The class rounds of the competition resulted in a final with just a few adaptations this year. Split into their double year group bubbles (double bubbles?), the winners of the class rounds performed their speeches to their year group and an adjacent year (bubble buddies?!). Our speakers really had to screw their courage to the sticking-place this year because each speech was filmed by our resident Steven Spielberg (Mrs Carrasco). The videos of the school final winners in each key stage have been sent to the panel of Bellevue judges who will soon announce the winners of the inter-school round! As we await the verdict via video, we haven’t been filled with this much trepidation and excitement since Katrina and the Waves won Eurovision for us in 1997.

This year, we’ve been treated to speeches about unusual creatures, the Olympics, Harry Potter, Labradors, suffragettes, Enid Blyton, and fraudulent movie companies – a truly vast range of topics! Every speech heard in class has been incredibly interesting (who knew there was such a thing as a tongue-eating louse! And now who wishes they didn’t know there was such a thing as a tongue-eating louse?!).

Putting aside the joy of winning a certificate or the opportunity to share some facts with their classmates, you may wonder why we ask children to spend their time preparing and taking part in a speech competition. What use is it anyway? The answer is – it isn’t just because it develops their research skills, or their verbal fluency, or their ability to hold eye contact while talking, or their familiarity with expressing their ideas with clarity. The most wonderful thing developed by the annual speech competition can be narrowed down to a single word: confidence.

I will always remember a little boy I taught for the first time in Year 2. He was a fearless talker – he could chat easily and confidently with teachers, his friends and any old stranger off the street. He volunteered answers in every lesson. Yet he hated the very idea of public speaking in front of dozens of watchful eyes. I taught that boy again in Year 4, and he specifically asked the class not to vote for him. He emphatically did not see himself as a public speaker. I taught that boy again in Year 6 (what an unlucky bunch they were)! And, third time’s the charm, I put him in the speech competition myself… And what an absolute revelation it was to watch him – a fully blossomed flower, confidently speaking to not just his class but one hundred and fifty little faces in the hall, with his easy charm and a great big smile.

When this boy, who had always avoided the limelight of public speaking and dreaded performing arts, went on later that year to star in Annie at the Garrick Theatre – singing beautifully, dancing, public speaking (with an American accent, no less!), absolutely wowing his sold-out audience… Well, that’s why we do it. It might not be this year that the confidence shows itself, or even the year after that… but confidence is cumulative, and it’s one of life’s most precious commodities. Anything we can do to foster it is worthwhile.

And two years later, I’ll always be filled with teacherly pride about that wonderful, brave, witty boy… and I’ll never forget his unforgettable turn as Rooster wink

Mrs Hewitt

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