Framwellgate take Youth Speak crown

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

Durham farm sweeps up national award

A WORKING farm which doubles as a visitor attraction has swept to success in a national agricultural award scheme.


Broom House Farm, at Witton Gilbert, near Durham, won the accolade for the excellence of the educational opportunities and interactive experience it offers visitors.

The farm, run by Mark and Jane Gray, won the award for Best On-Farm Destination in the 2013 UK Farm Retail Awards.

Recognising farms which do more than sell local produce to customers, Broom House was commended for the way it helps visitors learn about food, farming and the countryside in a “hands-on” manner.

The judges also praised the Gray family for being, “passionate about their organic production and countryside stewardship, passing on their enthusiasm in fun and creative ways to visitors of all ages.”

Mrs Gray has run the farm with her husband since 2000, diversifying to first open it for public visits in 2004.

She said: “We were really surprised to win the award, but also really pleased because of the hard work we’ve done here.

“We try to give our visitors a practical experience of how a farm works whilst also giving them some exercise and lots of fresh air.”

She said that education is an exciting element of their business, with about 4,000 school children, from nursery age to sixth-formers, visiting the site each year.

“We make the visits related to their learning and what’s actually happening on the farm.

“Whether it’s A-Level biology or Key Stage 2 maths, what we show them is targeted at what they need to learn.

“We also try to reconnect people with where their food comes from.

“The kids enjoy seeing the full story of the journey of our produce from the field to our farm shop.”

Further details about visits to Broom House Farm are available via, or by ringing 0191-371 8382