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News > Alumni News > Allanians treat Schools' public speaking team to a special tour of Cambridge

Allanians treat Schools' public speaking team to a special tour of Cambridge

27 May 2022
Written by Adam Clark
Alumni News
Dame Allan's ESU Public Speaking Finalists
Dame Allan's ESU Public Speaking Finalists

FORMER Head Boy and Head Girl, Geordie Cheetham and Virginia Barbour, met with the Schools’ talented public speaking team when they travelled to Cambridge to represent the North-East in the Grand Final of the ESU-Churchill Public Speaking Competition.

The Allanians, who left in 2020 and went on to study at the University of Cambridge, kindly gave the four Year 11 pupils a tour of two colleges before they took part in the prestigious competition at Churchill College, in May.

English teacher Victoria Ward, Head of Lower School (DAGS), accompanied them on the weekend. She said: “Both Geordie and Virginia - themselves previous winners of the Dame Allan’s Public Speaking Competition - were extremely kind in taking the time to talk to the students about what life at Cambridge was like, from both an academic and a personal perspective.

“We were able to visit some iconic locations, such as King’s College Chapel and the Bridge of Spies, as well as marvel at the beautiful architecture and stunning grounds. Listening to the experiences of the Allanians, who continue to flourish at university, was invaluable and we are very grateful to them for taking the time to meet us.”

Geordie, who is reading History and French at Cambridge, said: “It was great to talk to the students about their interests and Cambridge life, as well as about their experiences in the public speaking competition.

“The confidence public speaking gives you certainly helps at university. When you listen to lecturers every day, you can really tell when someone is a confident public speaker and it makes you much more interested in their message.”

The Schools’ public speaking team chair, Ben Patrick, said the tour was the highlight of the trip. “The entire experience was incredible, but if I had to pinpoint one thing, it would have to be the tour by Virginia and Geordie,” he said. “Listening to those two very warm, genuine people was great, especially against the backdrop of two truly beautiful colleges.”

Team reserve Nasif Chowdhury now wants to consider the University of Cambridge for his future studies. “The visit gave a great deal of insight into what life at higher levels of education might be like, and it was encouraging to hear that there can be a balance between work life and student life!” he said.

Ben and Nasif, together with speaker Arwen Jenkins and questioner Imogen Golding-Douglass, formed one of 13 teams to reach the Grand Final of the ESU-Churchill Public Speaking Competition, the largest contest of its kind, attracting some 400 teams from across England and Wales.

Arwen chose the topic: ‘People should be allowed to die with dignity’, opening her speech with Hamlet’s musings of Act V Scene ii, and balancing it with scientific research, personal experience and humour.

Ben and Imogen were paired with a speaker whose topic considered: ‘Is cloning humans inevitable?’ Judges praised Ben for his professional, approachable and humorous style, and commended Imogen for her thoughtful, yet challenging approach to questioning.

Dame Allan’s Schools first entered teams into the annual ESU-Churchill Public Speaking Competition in 2019. This year was the most successful yet, with ‘Team A’ reaching the second round and ‘Team B’ attending the Grand Final.

Imogen said: “It’s a monumental achievement for the Schools as a whole, and well-deserved recognition of the brilliant public speaking teams within Dame Allan’s. It was an honour to compete in such a prestigious competition.”

Pupils benefit enormously from connections with Allanians, near and far, and we are always delighted to hear from former pupils who are willing to give their time or expertise to introduce a current pupil to their university or field of work. Get in touch with us via the development office at

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