On Thursday January 28, Sydenham High School hosted the semi-finals of the Chrystall Prize, a public speaking event in memory of Chrystall Carter who was Legal Adviser to the Girls’ Day School Trust for nine years.

The girls entering the competition had to speak for a maximum of seven minutes with an additional three minutes of questions and were judged on their understanding of the subject matter, their ability to engage with their audience and their skill at dealing with questions.

Sydenham High School has hosted the event for some years and the four schools involved at the event were all South London GDST schools.

Danielle Feehan, Head of English at Sydenham High, said: “Debate and public speaking skills are enormously important in shaping the confidence of young people, providing excellent understanding of presentation skills whilst challenging and extending their understanding of wider social issues.”

Martha Nash from Blackheath High School, was the first competitor and gave an impressive speech on “What the world needs is a toilet,” which was an interesting choice of topic and kept the audience amused throughout the talk as she described in graphic details, the daily habits of people dealing with sanitation around the world. The judges were certainly captivated by her speech and she came across as a strong contender.

Daniel Cane, one of the judges and an actor and tutor, said: “The Chrystall Prize is a wonderful chance for the girls to develop a range of skills and build their confidence. I've learnt a lot - from the state of our NHS to swish Japanese loos!”

Next to present was Sophie Butcher from Bromley High School who spoke about the immigration crisis with some considerable knowledge and following her was Julieta Baker from Croydon High School, who made a strong case against body modification. Both girls had to deal with some tough questions from the audience but answered with ease and conviction.

Alexandra Lindsay was the final speaker and her subject “What does it mean to be British in the 21st century?” was delivered with clarity and professionalism. She was the only speaker to fluently deliver her presentation without the use of notes, which was an impressive achievement.

The judges had a difficult task to decide on a winner but finally after much deliberation, chose Alexandra Lindsay for the articulate way she presented and her ability to deal with the difficult questions from the students.

Alexandra said: ““This was an amazing opportunity which I’ve wanted to be part of since I was in Year 9. I’m really looking forward to the exciting experience of the finals.”

All schools put forward their top Year 11 debaters who attended the event with their support team of writers and researchers.

Nick Sidi was one of the other judges and a popular actor best remembered by the students for his role in the contemporary drama, Waterloo Road, said: “It really was a difficult decision to pick from the candidates but Alex was a worthy winner to go to the final. Her confidence and passion, together with her ability to clearly put forward her argument, won us all over.”

It was an impressive event and interesting to observe the self-assurance demonstrated by the students. They spoke like true professionals and were a credit to their schools.