Listen Up!

Winston Churchill once said, ““If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.” Children need to be taught how to speak to a public audience but possibly not in such an aggressive manner, rather with skill and passion.

The House Public Speaking competition yesterday afternoon was, once again, a huge success. It is incredible to watch children who go about their school lives without making a fuss suddenly come alive when in front of an audience, speaking about a topic for which they hold much passion. With themes ranging from “Donald Trump’s Presidency” and “How COVID-19 saved Humankind” to “Social Media: Good or Bad for Children?” and “Rubix Cubes and Autism” it was a very impressive event. In the two minutes allocated the children were able to deliver an introduction, some main points and a conclusion. I am sure many adults would struggle with this, presenting to an audience of 70 people, let alone in front of a camera in the knowledge their every word was being beamed out to classrooms across the school.

The benefits of learning to speak confidently in public at the youngest possible age can pay huge dividends across all areas of our lives as we grow older. It can:

  • Build self-esteem
  • Help us to influence and persuade others more effectively
  • Help us to think critically and creatively
  • Help us make new social connections
  • Help us to significantly enhance our personal relationships

Chances in life certainly open up when we learn how to get our point across and speak with impact. Regardless of age or experience, many people really do not like speaking in public, even if it is to ask a burning question. Interestingly though, at a conference or training event, as soon as everyone breaks for coffee or the conference is over you always find that suddenly there are hundreds of questions flying around the room. This behaviour has not changed in hundreds of years and is unlikely to change much in the future unless, as a nation, we add public speaking skills to our school curriculum. This is exactly what we have done at Yateley Manor.

Looking back at my school days I remember the teacher asking a question and nobody being willing to raise their hand to answer it. Sadly, most of us were simply afraid to do so and we left it to the usual one or two in the class to claim another smiley face.


Historically the written word has been the primary currency of education in schools. Throughout the ages children have been taught to read, remember and repeat. It has been and continues to be the most popular means by which learning is demonstrated. In the past, in many cases, success at school and at work required fluency with the written word.

Whilst that still is and will always remain vitally important we know it is not sufficient on its own. Our inability to speak with confidence, sincerity and passion does little to help us to connect with each other in such a changing world. Many young people leave school or university today with impressive qualifications yet when it comes to the spoken word a great number struggle to express themselves clearly and confidently. The first time they are asked to give a presentation to their colleagues or bosses at work, the feeling of dread and panic can be overwhelming.

We need to teach children to manage their nerves and to help them to speak with confidence. We need to show them how to command an audience, keep their attention and how to answer questions. Just imagine what the world would look like if our children were taught how to tell stories, to give and receive feedback and to listen more effectively.

To succeed in the workplace today we are increasingly called on to communicate with verbally and to articulate information in a clear and coherent way to peers and colleagues. In this world of technology, the ability to speak to an audience is still a fundamental part of our curriculum at Yateley Manor and we will continue to provide rich opportunities for the children to develop these skills.