During the school day, a group of students gather in the school’s library. Outside the weather is bleak but inside students are happily chatting and leafing through their programmes. Introductions are swiftly made and the students are introduced to the person in charge of today’s workshop. Yes this may sound like a bog-standard school programme, on the contrary the reality is quite different.

In fact this group of roughly 30 students are taking part in the Speak Up, Speak Out challenge run by the Jack Petchey Foundation which help to enable schools across London and Essex to reach their full potential. The Speak Up, Speak Out challenge consists of students in either year nine or year ten who have been selected by their English teachers to take part in a series of public speaking challenges across one school day. The five winners chosen from the final stage where students must perform a two minute speech on a subject or issue of their choice then must Speak Out during a school assembly in front of their year group. The one winner from this assembly is then selected to compete with other schools across the Borough to win.

“It was a great experience and helped me build my confidence with public speaking” - Lara Duffy, participant in the Speak Out programme articulated whilst questioned about the day. “In particular I would recommend this to people who are interested in gaining confidence in general or who want more practice in public speaking.“.

The Speak Up Speak Out challenge was a safe environment where students could freely talk about a range of issues or interests they have from racism to sport, the pre-conceived idea of normality to immigration or how school is “pointless”, students could freely express their opinion in a two minute speech at the end of the day. The workshop helped people bond and pushed people out of their comfort zone whilst having fun and enjoying themselves. 

For me the Speak Up Speak Out challenge has improved my self-confidence when public speaking as well as taught me helpful tips on how to deliver a professional speech. It was a great experience.

By Sian Clarke