Students from Framwellgate School emerged victorious in the Durham Rotary club’s annual Youth Speak programme last month.
Competing against Durham School, Durham Johnstone and St Leonard’s Catholic School in the debating competition, Framwellgate took the top prize, winning a closely-fought final against Durham School on the topic of restricting the pay of senior executives.
Hosted in the debating chamber on Palace Green, the finals had earlier seen Durham School, represented by Dylan Mistry, Martha Bradley and Alexander Smith, win a debate on abolishing private schools against St Leonard’s, represented by Alice Phillips, Charlotte Welsh and Joseph Grehan-Bradley.
Meanwhile Framwellgate (Joshua Morgan, Sarah Kingston and Christian Thompson-Hails) beat Durham Johnstone (Callum Hunter, Zeneshe Bamanji and Umair Khan) in a debate on introducing minimum-pricing for alcohol.
Run with the help of the Durham Union Society (DUS), the Youth Speak programme sees university students volunteer in local schools to help young people develop skills of public speaking and debating.
Kit Mercer, the student coordinating the programme for the DUS this year, said, ‘I took great pride in seeing how much the kids improved.’
‘We had three sessions with them and they went from being really nervous at the start to confidently speaking in front of the whole chamber about a topic they’d only been told about 20 minutes previously.’
‘I had been a bit worried that they would have been bored or disruptive but they were all really keen and a genuine pleasure to coach.’
President Martin Leake and Phil Mars of the Rotary Club presented the winners’ shield and certificates to all of the participants after the final. Christian Thompson-Hails of Framwellgate was awarded ‘Best Speaker’.
David Jackson of the Durham Rotary club said, ‘The Youth Speak programme is a Rotary programme that runs in many countries, but in Durham it is unique because it works in collaboration with the DUS.’
‘We organise all of the schools involved and they come from the Durham Rotary club catchment area: Belmont, Durham City, Framwellgate and Neville’s Cross.’
‘I think the whole scheme is brilliant and the schools are amazing. Kit and the DUS team are a pleasure to work with. They’re professional, enthusiastic and make it happen. The schools really appreciate the work the DUS volunteers do.’
Photograph: David Jackson