5 reasons to try… ESU oracy competitions

English-Speaking Union
30 Second Briefing

ESU competitions in debate, public speaking and performance give students from all backgrounds the chance to have their voice heard.

From debating the key topics of the day or presenting a theme they are passionate about, to showcasing their Shakespearean talents, our challenges offer all who take part a new way to achieve.

1. Everyone needs to feel confident expressing themselves

Research shows that developing oracy (speaking and listening) skills can support students across the curriculum, and employers increasingly rate communication skills as the trait they most look for in their staff.

Developing oracy skills through competition helps students to refine these skills as they receive feedback from our expert judges. This means that when they are speaking in other formal contexts, or go for university or job interviews, they have already had real-world experience in presenting themselves effectively.

2. Opportunities for all students to shine

Oracy competitions provide many ways for students to showcase their skills. Often the students taking part in our competitions don’t have the opportunity to shine in other ways.

We develop a range of academic and presentational and performance skills, allowing all students to be celebrated. The ESU believes that all students deserve access to oracy education. But, for those who are particularly engaged, classroom opportunities alone might not be enough.

Competitions give students a place to really stretch themselves and to take on bigger challenges. Coming up against peers at local, regional, and even national levels means that there’s always more to strive for.

“Competitions give students a place to really stretch themselves and to take on bigger challenges.”

3. Oracy develops metacognitive skills (and vice versa)

Preparing for a public speaking or debating competition requires students to continually reflect on the strength of their arguments and their chosen method of presentation.

Students are aware that their arguments will be critiqued and are therefore motivated to think about how best to develop and hone their performances.

4. Build cultural capital

Our competitions engage students with the key topics of the day, building general knowledge and deepening understanding.

Being able to evaluate media sources and present arguments in a measured and respectful way helps ensure all students go into the wider world with the critical thinking skills and cultural capital they need to thrive.

5. Competitions provide focus for year-wide activities

Many of the schools that take part in our competitions use the competition season as a time to get everyone involved in oracy activities.

For example, the entire school could enter the first round of our Performing Shakespeare Competition, and teachers often use our ESU-Churchill Public Speaking Competition as a chance to get everyone giving speeches in class.

And of course, a winning team showing off their newly polished oracy skills makes for a fantastic assembly highlight.

Find out more about our competitions and watch our introductory webinars at

At a glance
  • Build your students’ confidence and critical thinking
  • Broaden students’ horizons through the topics covered and local, regional and national rounds
  • Supportive, positive feedback provided by our expert judges with real-world experience
  • Respected, prestigious competitions with finals at aspirational venues such as Shakespeare’s Globe

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