Top selling author, Lucy Foley, says of public speaking competition winner, 'Nia's talk was rich and engaging...' | Portsmouth High School

Top selling author, Lucy Foley, says of public speaking competition winner, ‘Nia’s talk was rich and engaging…’

Portsmouth High School, GDST, was delighted to host the finals of a prestigious public speaking competition last week.

This year, the public speaking competition took place online and five girls from across other Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) schools made emotionally compelling speeches in front of a panel of expert judges;  Lucy Foley, PHS alumna and best-selling novelist, Cheryl Giovannoni, Chief Executive of the GDST, Juliet Humphries, Chair of the Board of GDST Trustees and Education Consultant, Floyd Steadman.  An audience of guests, pupils, staff and parents joined the online audience as the competitors took part in the final of the Chrystall Carter competition.  Students were given a topic relating to societal issues of today and asked to give a confident argument of their view on that topic. They must also be able to engage with the audience and deal with challenging questions posed to them after their speech.

Millie from Sheffield High School, Grace from Howell’s School, Nia from Streatham and Clapham High School, Erin from South Hampstead High School and Jood from Blackheath High School took part in the finals of the competition which have been held since 2001.

The competition was set up in memory of a GDST employee, Chrystall Carter.  Mr Michael Oakley, the then Chief Executive, Chrystall’s husband, Richard Carter and two former colleagues of Chrystall’s, Peter Warren and Colin Ward attended the finals at Portsmouth High School as well as the prestigious judges including the current Chief Executive, Cheryl Giovannoni.

‘Many congratulations to everyone involved with the Chrystall Prize Final,’ said Richard Carter.  ‘ I have to say that I was surprised and impressed in equal measure that you proceeded with the competition this year. It went so well and you should all be delighted. A year ago who had heard of Zoom?  The standards, as ever, were so high and it is always a great pleasure to see that, and there is no doubt that Chrystall would have been thrilled to see the quality, spirit and talent of the GDST students.’

Lucy Foley, author and alumna of Portsmouth High School said:

‘I have honestly sat here in awe.  I have loved the use of personal experiences and have listened to some fascinating arguments.  I have learned such a lot.’

The seven minute speeches ranged from ‘we should be judged by the content of our character, not by the colour of our skin’ to ‘social media undermines good journalism’.  The judges chose Nia Michael-George from Streatham and Clapham High School as the winner of this year’s competition for her speech, ‘We may life in a godless world, but is one hungry for a new religion?’

Juliet Humphries, Chair of the GDST Trustees, said:

‘I have been really impressed with the great range of topics and all the pupils had all clearly done so much research.’

Education Consultant, Floyd Steadman added:

‘This is the first time I have been involved and I was blown away.  All the pupils did so well with powerful and thought provoking topics.  With the pandemic they had the added complication of speaking online.’

‘It has been such a pleasure and privilege to compete in the Chrystall Prize competition,’ said Nia. ‘The process of picking and researching my topics has not only allowed me to expand my general knowledge and develop my public speaking skills, but has also made me question and develop my own personal beliefs and values. Winning the competition has been the cherry on top and is truly amazing, and I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to take part.’

Cheryl Giovannoni, Chair of the Judges and Chief Executive of the GDST said:

‘We have quite a time deciding who the winner should be and all the girls did such an extraordinary job.  Nia’s speech was fresh and original and left us all wanting more. She should feel very proud of herself and is a very worthy winner.’

Lucy Foley added: ‘Nia’s talk was rich and engaging and so well researched and she dealt with her questions really confidently.’