Posted on: March 8, 2016
SELFIES, Potteries accents and the humble paper clip were up for debate when smooth-talking pupils competed to be crowned the city’s best young speakers.
Ten high schools fielded teams in the public speaking contest, which was aimed at 11 to 13-year-olds.
Now the joint winners – St Joseph’s College, in Trent Vale, and Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy, in Blurton – will be representing the Potteries in next month’s district final.
And if their winning streak continues, they could make it all the way to the national final later this year.
The local heat was organised by the Rotary Club of Stoke-on-Trent in partnership with headteachers’ organisation SASCAL.
Student Victoria Aitken was part of the Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews team, who called their topic ‘Aye up, me ducks’.
The 13-year-old, from Blurton, said: “It was all about accents.”
She described the Potteries accent as ‘rich and varied’, and even unearthed some unusual trivia about it.
Victoria told the audience: “Did you know ‘duck’ is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word for ‘duke’?”
She said being named joint winner was a ‘very happy and proud moment’.
Pupils from Thistley Hough Academy, in Penkhull, also came up with an unusual subject for their entry.
It was all about inventions that changed the world and covered the wheel, the computer and the paper clip.
Young speaker Marta Macedo highlighted how the potter’s wheel was instrumental in the success of the ceramics industry.
The 12-year-old, from Trent Vale, also had some quirky anecdotes up her sleeve.
During her speech, she talked about a man whose life was transformed by a paper clip, which he used to ‘trade up’ for other objects.
“After 14 transactions, he was able to acquire a two-storey house,” said Marta.
The local round of the Youth Speaks competition was hosted by Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College and featured six teams of finalists.
Among them was a group from St Margaret Ward Catholic Academy, in Tunstall, who looked at the importance of the arts.
Talented young musician Thomas Bentley put forward the case for why schools should champion creative subjects.
The 13-year-old, from Chell, said: “If they are passionate about the arts, they should be encouraged to do them.”
He highlighted how performing and visual arts could help pupils express their feelings and improve their concentration.
Meanwhile, Sandon Business and Enterprise College, in Meir, looked at who put the ‘great’ into Great Britain.
Twelve-year-old Anastasia Balanyuk, who was born in Ukraine but now lives in Meir, spoke about the positive role that immigrants have played.
She used the recent floods as a case study, showing how people from different cultural backgrounds had helped stricken communities.
Anastasia added: “The word immigrant is sometimes used as an insult. But why should that be when they bring so much to Britain?”
For their topic, pupils from St Peter’s Academy, in Fenton, explored how social media was promoting unrealistic body images and leading to some youngsters developing eating disorders.
Fourteen-year-old Emma Poppinger, from Eaton Park, said: “We are bombarded with pressure from a young age.”
Social media also featured in the speech by pupils from St Joseph’s College, who talked about the selfie phenomenon.
Twelve-year-old Will Storey, from Penkhull, said: “Why do people choose to document every second of their lives with a selfie, instead of enjoying the occasion?”
His team’s confident pitch won over the judges.
Will added: “It’s fantastic to win. It’s good to have competitions like this because you can see what young people of Stoke-on-Trent have to offer.”
Charles Freeman, president of Stoke-on-Trent Rotary Club, said: “We’ve been tremendously impressed by the speeches. The topics have also been very varied.”