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London’s Oldest Higher Education Institute Announces the Winners of Annual Oracy Competition, Where One Student Won over £10,000

guy talking at a panel with many students

Gresham College has announced the winner of its second annual Oracy Competition, a competition for state school students aged 16 and 17 that promotes the importance of oracy throughout students’ academic and future careers. The twelve finalists from around the UK delivered their prepared answers to one of Gresham College’s pre-set questions to a panel in London yesterday (26th March 2024). 16 year old, Nikhil Banerjee took the 2024 crown last night, winning over £10,000 to further his education as well as £1,000 for his school, Queen Elizabeth’s School in Barnet.

The Gresham Competition, which began in 2023, showcases the communication skills of state school students in Year 12 (England and Wales), S5 (Scotland), and Year 13 (Northern Ireland). The event emphasises Gresham College’s dedication to promoting oracy skills and the importance of effective public speaking among young learners.

The twelve finalists from around the UK delivered their prepared answers to one of Gresham College’s pre-set questions to a panel in London yesterday (26th March 2024), where the winners of the competition were later announced.

The winning students for the 2023/24 competition are as follows:
Gold Award: Nikhil Banerjee, Queen Elizabeth’s School, Barnet
Silver Award: Aaya El Sidani, Bishopshalt School, Uxbridge
Bronze Award: Taya Martin, Netherthorpe School, Chesterfield

16 year old Nikhil took the 2024 crown last night, winning £10,250 to further their education as well as £1,000 for his school Queen Elizabeth’s School in Barnet. Sharing his thoughts on, “Could genome editing consign genetic diseases to history and would that be ethical?”, a question given by Professor Robin May, Nikhil presented his winning presentation to the esteemed panel of judges, as well as a room of industry professionals, peers and journalists. 

Winner of the Gresham Oracy Competition 2023/24, Nikhil Banerjee said:

“This event is one of the most prestigious competitions for students in the UK. It was such an honour to make it to the final and I can’t believe that I’ve won against such a competitive field.

“The prize will make a big difference in supporting my further education and it’s great that my school benefits too as they have supported me throughout this journey.”

Gresham College, the first institute of Higher Education in London, has been providing free public education across the arts and sciences since 1597 and is also a registered charity in England and Wales. Through this competition, they aim to showcase the importance of oracy competence and the art of communicating.

Before this stage of the competition, students from all over the UK prepared five-minute presentations on assigned topics, aiming to demonstrate their oratory abilities and engage with academic research. The questions were set by leading UK lecturers connected to Gresham College.

The 2023/2024 questions answered by pupils (16-17 years old):

  1. How can the law aid in creating a more equal, diverse and inclusive society?
  2. How might Large-Language models like ChatGPT affect the future of education? 
  3. Could genome editing consign genetic diseases to history and would that be ethical?
  4. Should the exploration of space be left to private companies, or to governments?
  5. How far is it morally justifiable to curtail personal freedoms to protect the environment?
  6. If you could introduce a Private Member’s Bill to change one law in a UK jurisdiction, what change would you propose, and how would you argue for it in a Parliamentary speech?
  7. With rising mental health issues in young people, how could an emotional response to music be used to help?
  8. Paganism in Britain was replaced by Christianity with apparent speed and ease. What are the parallels today for religions and other societal changes?
  9. The prime minister has said that everyone should learn maths to age 18. Is he right?

The first-place student, Nikhil Banerjee has received £9,250 towards their first-year university tuition and £1,000 for a laptop from Gresham College following their win, whilst second and third place, Aaya El Sidani and Taya Martin, have won £800 and £600 towards laptops respectively. 

In addition to the amount given on behalf of Gresham College, both The Rosetrees Trust has sponsored prizes for their top two students answering questions on STEM subjects and The Merchant Taylors’ Foundation has presented prizes for their top two students answering the Arts & Humanities questions.

Both The Rosetrees Trust and the Merchant Taylors’ Foundation have contributed £300 to their first-place winner, along with £2,700 towards their first-year university fees. Mia Arkan, of Henrietta Barnett Sixth Form in Hampstead has been crowned as The Rosetrees Trust winner and Scarlett Delacoe-Eyre of Carmel College in Darlington has been crowned as The Merchant Taylors’ Foundation winner. In addition, Abdia Jahangeer, of Brampton Manor Academy in East Ham, and Kiwandeep Singh, of Lampton Academy in Hounslow, have been crowned as runners-up and have received £200 as well as £1,800 towards university tuition. Both these prizes were judged separately by each organisation.

Queen Elizabeth’s School in Barnet has received £1,000 following Nikhil Banerjee’s win, from Gresham College, to go towards enhancing the school’s academic programs and curricular activities. Bishopshalt School in Uxbridge and Netherthorpe School in  Chesterfield, have also received £500 on behalf of the second and third-place winners. 

The winners were chosen by the event’s esteemed panel of judges. The 2023/24 competition judges were as follows: 

  • Professor Sarah Hart – Professor of Geometry at Gresham College (2020 -)
  • Deputy Nighat Qureishi – Gresham College Council Member
  • Nav Ahmed – Principal Lecturer, Arden University
  • Mary-Clare Davies – Director of Global Education, Mulberry School for Girls
  • AJ Haseley – Co-Founder & CEO of AYM Media Group

This year’s competition featured an expanded range of topics, including law, health, artificial intelligence, and science. Participants were required to submit recorded presentations, written summaries, and detailed source documentation before the finalists were decided. This broader scope encouraged students to explore diverse subjects and develop their intellectual curiosity.

Chair of the Judging Panel, Professor Sarah Hart, said: 

“Nikhil’s presentation in particular demonstrated a thorough grasp of a complex issue, one of the most challenging ethical debates of our time. His argument was reasoned and powerful.”

Professor Martin Elliott, Provost, at Gresham College, says: 

“We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2024 Gresham Competition and wish Nikhil, Aaya and Taya, a huge congratulations for taking the gold, silver and bronze crowns!

“Through our competition, students were not only able to showcase their oracy skills but also engage with significant academic research that will open them up to new areas of learning. Many congratulations to all students who made the final, as we know each one of you has a bright future ahead of you.”

Pictures of the Gresham Competition winners can be found here:

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