Rhetoric Cup Final

Pupils in U5 concluded their enrichment fortnight by gathering in the new Hive Lecture Theatre for a screening of the Rhetoric Cup final.

This annual event, which dates back to the 1960s, normally takes place in L5 but was delayed for obvious reasons this year. All pupils deliver a speech on a topic of their choice and a finalist is selected from each English class.

This year, the audience enjoyed a fantastic selection of speeches on topics ranging from goats, ants and flat-earthers to fame, GCSE grades and violence against women and girls.

The unenviable job of selecting a winner went to our guest adjudicator, Headingtonian Phoebe Ladenburg (2005), a trained actor who works as a theatre director and performance coach to the financial and professional sectors.

After much deliberation, Phoebe announced that this year’s winner was Lydia for her wise and heartfelt speech on the topic of perfectionism. Lydia was back home overseas but was able to join us remotely so pupils and staff could congratulate her on her well-deserved victory.

Three weeks later, it was the turn of the talented L5 finalists to wow their peers in their final English lesson of the year. This was a truly hybrid event, with six finalists speaking live in the Hive and one pupil who is currently attending remotely sharing a recording of her speech. Topics were, as ever, wide-ranging and illuminating – from the importance of chopsticks to the hidden potential of moss in tackling climate change and the question of whether women really should have to shave their legs in the 21st Century.

The speakers were joined by guest adjudicator and Headington parent Luisa Baldini, a former broadcast journalist and BBC correspondent who has set up her own company, Composure Media, which offers training in communication and public speaking. Luisa was impressed by all the finalists but chose Asha’s impassioned speech about the harmful effects of catcalling and sexual harassment of girls and young women as the winner of this year’s Rhetoric Cup.

Mr Stephen Dilley, Head of English at Headington School said: “We were overwhelmed by the passion, insight and articulacy with which our finalists communicated.

“The U5 event marked a wonderful end to their GCSE studies and congratulations go to all pupils for their brilliant speeches!

“For the L5 girls, this was a wonderful way to end the academic year and a fantastic reminder of the power and eloquence of young voices. Congratulations to everyone who took part!