Public Speaking Competition

Tuesday 20th June 2017, Collège Mona Ouzouf, Savenay

Mme Patricia Curd

Roughly a year ago, Isabelle Hawkridge, an English teacher at the Collège Mona Ouzouf in Savenay, contacted me asking if the branch could help her organise an exchange visit between her pupils and a school in the UK. In reply I pointed out that whilst the ESU doesn’t have contacts with UK schools to facilitate exchanges, we take part in the largest international public speaking competition which every year involves over 600,000 young people worldwide. Isabelle’s interest was aroused and she was invited and attended the regional and national finals of the public speaking competition in Angers, 1 April this year.

Undaunted by the fact that young people entering the IPSC must be over 16 years old, fuelled with enthusiasm and fired by a passion for teaching English, Isabelle decided to organise a competition for young people aged 11 and 14 years between her school and two other local secondary schools, the Collège Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in Savenay and the Collège Paul Gauguin in Cordemais.

For me it was an honour to be invited to join the jury of this public speaking competition on Tuesday 20th June 2017. Despite an early start to arrive in Savenay for the start of the competition at 9am, the enthusiasm of all involved: the Head Teacher, the teachers and in particular, the candidates, made it a really special experience.

The Collège Mona Ouzouf, often referred to as the Nouveau Collège de Savenay, is indeed very new and has pupils only in years 7 to 9, UK system, or 6 – 4, French system. 2018 will be the first year that students at the school sit the Brevet exam.

The competition involved about 70 young people from the same three classes in the three schools. In the first round, each year group had been divided into small groups each of which performed a short sketch, having learned their lines previously. Just 8 pupils from each group were selected to proceed to the quarter-finals. Each candidate delivered a short piece of text they had learned by heart. Four in each group progressed to the semi-finals. Each of them recited a poem. The two pupils in each group who went head to head in the finals had to deliver a tongue twister and read a piece of text they had first seen 5 minutes beforehand.

Alongside me on the judging panel were Frédéric Chotard, an inspector of English in schools from the Académie de Nantes, and Jim Gowans, Chairman of ESU Brighton & Hove and District, formerly a teacher of languages at Hurstpierpoint College in West Sussex.

The three winners and 3 runners up were each awarded a certificate and a statuette of the Statue of Liberty, to mark American week at the school. The winners also received a book. The winners were Elodie Cousin (year 7), Paul Lemâle (year 8). and Clara Carzunel (Year 9). Congratulations to them all, and indeed to all the pupils who participated. Thank you to everyone involved for the hard work that had gone into making this such a rewarding experience for the young people, the teachers and the judges. It was a privilege to have been part of it.