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Students have their Finest Hour in Churchill Speaking Competition

Results of the first annual Churchill Public Speaking Competition.

By Fran Bardsley

THE OXFORD MAIL, 18 March 2012—ONE of recent history’s most iconic figures was the subject for an inter-school public speaking competition.
Azfa Ali and Esme Partridge with head Sue Croft
Pupils from six schools across Oxfordshire swotted up on the former prime minister Winston Churchill before going before a panel of judges at Blenheim Palace to talk about the great leader, who was born at the palace and is buried in nearby Bladon.

And despite tough competition from independent schools renowned for their work in public speaking, it was three Cowley schoolgirls from Oxford Spires Academy who took home the prize, at the inaugural Churchill Public Speaking Competition.

In preparation for the event, which took place on Tuesday, Esme Partridge, 14, Azfa Ali, 17 and Siobhan McCluskey, 17, spent hours poring over materials at the library at Blenheim Palace.

They were allowed to examine and handle original Churchill documents of the kind usually kept behind lock and key. The second theme for their speech was the power of words.

Headteacher Sue Croft said: “They had overwhelming applause when they had completed a beautiful speech.

“Esme is only 14 and was competing against sixth formers in independent schools. They really stepped up to the mark.”

Esme, who was the main speaker, said: “It was really interesting because we found out lots about his personal life as well as his political life.

“At the beginning it was quite nerve-wracking. We’re chuffed to have won.”

And Azfa, who took the role of questioner, described Churchill as a ‘hero’.

She said: “What I found most interesting was looking at some of his published speeches at the palace that no one else was allowed to see. We even got to touch the books.

“He was a hero because he wanted peace for everyone, not just his own nation.

“I didn’t expect to win. I’m thrilled.”

Three primary schools and three secondary schools took part in the competition, with Chenderit School, Middleton Cheney, and Radley College taking on the academy in the secondary round.

Judges were Judson Alphin from Oxford University, management consultant Chris Bevan, John Harrop from the English Speaking Union, Allen Packwood of the Churchill Archives Centre and royal biographer Hugo Vickers.

The pupils were presented with a trophy hand-carved from wood from the Blenheim Palace estate.

They are now preparing for a regional public competition in June.

Read the entire article at The Oxford Mail.

©The Oxford Mail

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