The English Speaking Union (www.esu.org) is an international organisation which aims to build skills and confidence in communication and give people the opportunity to realise their potential through effective communication. One of its activities is to organise highly regarded national debating and public speaking competitions for young people. Here at Bennett, we have been competing strongly in these and other debating competitions for several years now, and our teams have been highly commended and come close to victory several times. Last night, Wednesday, the year 11 Bennett team competed in the Branch Final of the ESU Public Speaking Competition, and in the face of very stiff competition was the winning team. The competition took place at Cranbrook school, and the Bennett team beat Cranbrook, TWGGS, Beechwood and Cleeve Park School in Sidcup to victory.
The topic was “Violence is almost always the answer” and the Bennett speaker, Andrew Bamford, spoke, I am pleased to say, against this motion. In the chair was Olivia Salter and the questioner was Lilly Dawson. I would like to offer my congratulations to them all for their commitment and outstanding performance. I would also like to mention other members of the team who, while not taking part in the final, have supported the winning trio through the practices: Laura Tink, Rosannah Holman, Elliot Chiles, Georgia Patterson and Annabel Sambrook. Also, of course, thanks are due to the staff who have worked hard with them to train and coach them in public speaking and debating, meeting twice a week over the past three months, in particular Miss Chaplin.
This is another example of what we mean when we say that Bennett is committed not just to producing the excellent examination outcomes which I wrote about in the last posting, but also to developing the potential of young people in other dimensions, all of which not only make them more effective as adult members of society but also bring about the satisfaction and confidence which result from an awareness of potential realised.
It is this quality and distinctiveness which we are aiming to build on as Bennett moves towards acquiring so-called ‘academy status’ later this school year. We are currently going through a consultation exercise on this, but, in the light of the swingeing and on-going reductions in the spending power of local authorities, including Kent, over recent months, it seems right that Bennett takes the autonomy now on offer to successful schools as a sign of self confidence in our aims and ethos and a way of building on these and other achievements into the future.