The annual Youth Speaks Final was held in The Andrews Hall on Wednesday 17 January. This has been a long-standing event in the junior school calendar as it gives pupils a real opportunity to draw together all aspects of their learning from selecting a project, researching, collaborating with team members, and planning, structuring, and delivering a final presentation in front of a panel of judges. Older pupils remember delivering their presentations vividly as a pivotal point in their preparation for senior school projects. All pupils in Upper Two put projects together and finalist groups were then shortlisted. Parents of the children in the finals were invited to watch on Wednesday as presentations were given, and winners selected.
The first group consisting of Jessica, Emma, and Sasha spoke on the hotly debated topic of whether the Elgin marbles should be returned to the Acropolis museum from the British Museum. They spoke eloquently about their research which had been discussed with parents at home and the pros and cons of each eventuality were shared. The subject was explained with reasoning for the marbles’ current accommodation put across. The team then delivered reasons as to why they believe the artefacts should now be returned to Athens: far more people would travel to see the site which the marbles are specific to, rather than them being in the British Museum which holds a diverse range of artefacts. Sasha replied to Mr Brough’s questioning on whether the marbles had been rightfully sold in the first place.
Next up were Jack, Greg, George, and Angus who delivered their stance on ‘AI: positive or negative and how it will change our lives in future’. They outlined how AI was being used already in our lives, raised significant points on jobs of the future, and outlined potential dangers on its use. They were questioned by Mrs Van, Head of Exeter Junior School, on how they would feel if one of their favourite artists had copy-cat pieces created by AI forcing them to think about whether we would be able to tell the difference between personal and computer-generated content.
Monty was joined by Henrique and Alf. Homelessness was the topic of study and personal research on the streets of Exeter had been carried out. Case studies were presented of three such individuals in different situations and how they came to be in this situation. A well-structured presentation was given on the statistics, the study of their case subjects, the findings that were uncovered and how that has changed the pupil’s thinking. Ms Simpson, Head of Exeter School, questioned whether the government should be doing more to help. Monty answered confidently with an idea of helping individuals who had addiction issues separately to those who did not so that no influence could be crossed between the groups. They closed with a plea to support homeless charities.
Ultra-processed food was the chosen topic of Wilfred, Aum and Alex, as they wanted to be healthy and lead a better life. They explored factors like time management, affordability, and availability of food products, labelling and awareness – all vital, thought-provoking factors in something that affects our everyday choices. The ability to feed a growing population without ultra-processed food was challenged by the Head of Drama, Mr Brough, with Aum arguing that more naturally-grown vegetables could be relied upon in home-cooked meals. Jokes and an appeal of good luck to all contestants were included to round off the final presentation.
The judging panel, consisting of Ms Simpson, Mrs Van and Mr Brough, then convened, coming back with a very constructive overview containing lots of tips the pupils can work on in future projects and presentations. Ultimately, the trophy went to the group researching the topic of AI due to the balance of their argument and the way the team complimented each other with their research and delivery.
It was a great display of how pupils are challenged to excel beyond their expectations, debate sensitive topics to challenge their curious minds and collaborate to deliver outstanding presentations akin to those they may be making as they take their place in the global community in future. We look forward to the Youth Speaks final again next year.