A Dad’s Perspective on the Public Speaking Competition

This week our guest blogger is a parent, Mr Mark Richards, who tells us about the regional final of the Public Speaking Competition in which his son Alex is the main speaker.  Also, do look out for our boys in the Scarborough News either this week or next!

4:30 Saturday morning. Not the time you want your alarm to go off. Not when it’s pouring down and there’s a 200 hundred mile drive in front of you.

But today was the big day. The regional final of the Rotary Club’s Youth Speaks competition. Scarborough College’s team taking on five others from Yorkshire and all counties down to Kettering. We woke Alex, gave him some breakfast, made sure he’d remembered his school tie and loaded him into the car. He promptly fell asleep.

“We’re here,” I said four hours later. We’d arrived at Kettering Buccleuch Academy, the imposing new school that was hosting the regional final.

We wandered into the school’s theatre, where the competition was taking place. It was impressive – and big. (Think New Hall with much comfier seats.) The team sneaked next door into the school’s drama studio and had a last minute rehearsal. And then another one.

Nerves? Absolutely. The parents and the supporting teachers (Ms Powell, Mrs Mack, Mr Wilson) couldn’t sit still. The three boys – Edward Burnett, Niall Collinson and Alex Richards – were remarkably relaxed.

The first school to speak was Wellingborough – a dramatic speech about the demise of regional theatre. Next up was the College’s old sporting rival Hymers, speaking about space exploration.

“And now,” said the MC, “I’d like to introduce our next team. Scarborough College.”

Edward rose to his feet. “Good morning, ladies and gentlemen…” A nice introduction; the audience laughed at his joke. So far, so good. “And so,” said Edward, “May I introduce our speaker, Alex Richards.”

Unlike the others, Alex’s speech was personal, about the difficulties of coping with dyslexia. The audience seemed to like it. Alex dealt with the question from the audience. And now it was Niall, proposing the vote of thanks. Brilliant! The audience didn’t just laugh at his joke, they applauded.

But had the College done enough? They were probably ahead of Hymers, but Wellingborough had been good – and there were three more to come, including The Brooksbank School from West Yorkshire, who’d beaten us in the area heat.

Next to speak was the team from Catmose College in Oakland – and they were impressive: well rehearsed, well presented, an excellent speaker. Wow! That was serious competition. And so were Brooksbank and the last school to speak, the Thomas Wharton Community College from Doncaster.

There was an hour’s break before the results were announced. The parents and teachers nervously sipped coffee: the boys took the chance to eat as many doughnuts as possible.

And then it was results time. Opinion in the hall was split. Everyone had a different winner. I didn’t know: it’s hard to judge your own team and your own son objectively. But I thought Catmose had been very, very good.

The MC was back on his feet. “I’ll announce the results in reverse order,” he said. “Runner up, and the reserve team for the final, is Catmose College…

…But there can only be one winner. And the winner – and through to the national final is… Scarborough College!”

Cue pandemonium. Cue this particular parent cheering rather more loudly than he should have done. Cue the presentation of a very attractive trophy. And cue a trip to Hull for the final, on Sunday April 28th.

A week later, it still hard to judge objectively. The standard of the competition was incredibly high. I’ve heard a lot of speeches in my life, and very few of them have come close to some of the speeches last Saturday. For a relatively small school like the College to beat several much bigger schools (Brooksbank has 1,700 pupils; Catmose and Wellingborough around 900) all with a much longer tradition of entering these competitions, is a remarkable achievement. The boys – and all the supporting staff – deserve huge credit for all the hard work they’ve put in so far. Whatever happens in the final, they should be very proud.

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