Haileybury pupils storm into the ESU regional finals

A team of three Haileybury pupils have successfully qualified for the regional finals in the English Speaking Union (ESU) competition. During the public speaking competition, pupils go head to head with other schools, in a bid to be crowned the winners at the final held in Cambridge.

Middles pupil Martha and Fifths pupils Declan and Donatella, were selected to take part in the competition through auditions, which were held last year. Selected for their public speaking skills and willingness to learn, the three won this terms round and will now move forward to compete in the Regional Finals in March.

The team were provided with a list of topics from the ESU, from which they were allowed to pick one to discuss in a 5 minute speech. As the Speaker, Declan conducted a speech entitled ‘we should cancel ‘cancel culture.’ Within this, he outlined what cancel culture is and its increasing prominence on social media, arguing that it was not a healthy way to respond to inappropriate comments, or a long-term solution. Instead, Declan called for a more open dialogue, where the person in question could be educated and encouraged to change their views. As Chair, Martha ensured that Declan stayed on topic and kept an eye on timings for the team, whereas Donatella (as Questioner), asked compelling questions to the opposition to counter-argue the points within their speech.

The judges were extremely complimentary of both teams and commented on their warmth, eloquence and camaraderie as a team. Declan was also commended as the night’s best speaker and Donatella as the best questioner. Miss Mash, who oversees the team, commented:

“For my part, I am so proud of the pupils for the dedication they’ve shown to this competition. We have met every week since November over Zoom and the competition itself was 2.5 hours. They were excellent ambassadors for Haileybury.”

To assist with their training in their weekly Zoom sessions, Lower Sixth pupils who had previously taken part in the ESU competition joined them. Christopher, Maddie and Zain assisted with coaching the pupils, ensuring that they had the confidence and charisma to win the judges over.

“I really enjoyed coaching the teams. The ESU competition was such a fun experience for me the first time around. It is not only so helpful in developing public speaking skills but also in developing an understanding for how debates for key issues work in the real world. The team came up with so many great ideas and new perspectives and it was great to see them challenge each other and learn from my year’s experiences and mistakes.” Said Maddie.

Martha, Declan and Donatella are now preparing for the next round, but are excited for what is to come. When asked why she decided to take part in the competition and how she felt when she found out they had won, Donatella said, “I decided to take part in ESU because I knew public speaking would be a good skill to develop before I start Politics A Level next year. I felt extremely proud when I won Best Questioner and the same goes to when I found out my team had made it through to the next round. We all worked incredibly hard and put many hours into it. Now I’m excited to see what’s to come next!”

Watch out for more on their progress over the next few weeks.