A TAUNTON school has come out on top in a prestigious national competition.

A team from Taunton Academy was crowned the 60th winners of the English Speaking Union’s Churchill Public speaking competition last month, after winning the national final.

Year 11 students Ella Gould, Chris Wood and Alexia Galatalis, triumphed over 11 other teams from across the country, each showcasing their skills in a presentation, wowing the judges.

This was the fourth year that TTA has entered the competition, coached by teacher and former ESU public speaking competition alumna, Kat Lam.

"I am delighted and proud of the success of the team," said Kat. "Their dedication and motivation during this tumultuous year has been admirable and duly rewarded in their successes."

Kat’s experiences of the competition 21 years ago during her own school days galvanised her decision to become involved with developing public speaking at the academy.

"Taking part in the ESU competition as a student consolidated my confidence while allowing me to develop oratory skills that, as a teacher, I use daily.

"Communication is a key skill that we must develop in our students to give them the tools for self-advocacy and allow them to fully engage in the world around them."

Somerset County Gazette: WINNERS: Kat Lam (coach and mentor), John Eddy (headteacher), Charles Scott (from Taunton ESU), with the team, Alexia Galatalis, Christopher Wood and Ella Gould
WINNERS: Kat Lam (coach and mentor), John Eddy (headteacher), Charles Scott (from Taunton ESU), with the team, Alexia Galatalis, Christopher Wood and Ella Gould

In each round, speaker Alexia chose a provocation from a list of topics to write a five minute speech on which she would be hosted and questioned by another team.

As chair, Ella’s role was to welcome and oversee the presentation by welcoming a guest speaker and setting the tone before finally summarising the key messages of what had been discussed.

Chris had the tricky role of delving into the guest speaker's topic by creating a rapport with while also challenging them with his thoughtful questions.

Headteacher at Taunton Academy, John Eddy, said how extremely proud he was of both Kat and the team who have worked so very hard over several months to win their heats and secure their place in the final.

"It demonstrates that time and effort does result in success and the whole Academy celebrates their achievements, which are richly deserved," he said.

"The standard has been set very high for our Year 10 team who competed in the regional finals last term."

Next, the team will attend a reception at the House of Lords where they will present their presentation.

Chair of the ESU Taunton branch, Charles Scott, said: "Initially we saw the Taunton Academy team win the South West Regional Finals which in itself was remarkable. This led them to the Grand Final.

"We watched with tenterhooks and despite the high standards of all the teams, the Taunton Academy were the overall winners.

"This was very much a team effort with excellent performances by Alexia, Ella and Chris.

"However, this would not have been possible without the support, guidance and commitment of Kat – she is brilliant. We are so pleased that the Taunton Branch have been able to give the school our support."