With no prior experience of a public speaking competition, four pupils from Porthcawl Comprehensive School navigated their way through unchartered territory all the way to the finals of a national public speaking competition.
In the final 12 out of 425 schools, the pupils were not just representing the only Welsh school, but also the only comprehensive school at the national finals, held in Churchill College, Cambridge. They found themselves before a range of judges, including the great grandson of Winston Churchill, Randolph Churchill!
Ella, one of the Porthcawl team, said: “It was so incredible to be a part of something that felt so out of our league, yet we managed to do so well and get so far.”
Wil, supporting this sentiment, added: ““The whole experience was so different and unlike anything any of us had done before. We felt so welcomed and appreciated. Such an amazing learning opportunity for all of us.”
The ESU Public Speaking Competition involved several stages, including the Regional Final in Stanwell, where Ella won Best Questioner and Wil, Best Chair. Winning the Regional Final meant they were awarded the Morgan Shield, as well as a pathway to ‘Finals Day’ in Churchill College, Cambridge.
At the second stage of the competition, held at Cardiff Sixth Form College, Romy, another team member, was asked to apply for a scholarship to attend a debating summer camp next year. She says of the journey: ““A brilliant experience! I have learned a lot – it was an incredible opportunity!”
Tammy, another Porthcawl pupil, also added: “The atmosphere was exhilarating. It was refreshing to see so many like-minded young people come together to pursue a shared passion.”
The team landed in the final six at the close of the competition. Their teacher, Rhaea Mahoney, Head of English and Media Faculty at the school, said: “What our students have achieved during their first public speaking competition is nothing short of incredible.
“How many 16-year-olds from a Welsh comprehensive school can say that they have engaged in an intellectual debate on the stage at Cambridge University?
“To say I am proud of them is an understatement. I am very grateful to our school for supporting their entry, and supporting their progress, within the ESU Public Speaking competition. What a fantastic experience it has been for us all!”
Mike Stephens, the headteacher at the school, said: ““We are so very proud of what our students have achieved in this national competition. We regularly talk to our students about maximising their ‘Learning, Skills and Experiences’, and their success has enabled them to build upon their knowledge, build upon their high level communication skills and strengthen their experiences. We pride ourselves on a wide range of extra-curricular experiences at Porthcawl Comprehensive School and we look forward to future public speaking success.”
What a fantastic achievement! To be the only team representing a Welsh school, as well as a comprehensive school at the finals of the ESU Public Speaking Competition is an amazing accomplishment – we are all extremely proud of our Porthcawl Comprehensive School team!
I am certain that this is an experience that the pupils will remember forever! Thank you to the teachers who have encouraged and supported these learners to grow in this way.
Councillor Jon Paul Blundell, Cabinet Member for Education