The Trust’s Education Committee believes schoolchildren can enjoy and learn from public speaking – especially on a York theme. We have therefore organised public speaking competitions for both primary and secondary school pupils in York, on heritage topics, since 2012. Family and Trust members are welcome to attend.


After a break of two years because of the pandemic, the latest annual York Civic Trust Public Speaking Competition for Primary Schools took place on Tuesday 28th June at the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall.

The winning pair from Lord Deramore’s School. Photo: David Thewlis

Sixteen young people aged between 10 and 11 from eight primary schools took part. They had been given six topics to choose from each of which related in some way to the history or culture of York. It was interesting that no less than five of the schools chose to discuss, ‘Covid was bad but the Plague was much worse.’ But then perhaps this is not surprising given that Covid has dominated the lives of these young people for the past two years!

An audience of over 100 heard them all agree that the plague was worse. However, the winning pair, from Lord Deramore’s school, chose to discuss a different topic, this being, ‘With the Queen’s statue being put on the Minster front, who else should have their statue in York?’ After debating many possibilities, including the suggestion that it could be the present prime minister (prompting guffaws on their part) they chose Captain Sir Tom Moore, in part because he was born in Keighley and so was “a proper Yorkshire lad”. The boys then appeared on Jonathan Cowap’s Radio York programme the next day, impressing Jonathan with their ability to reel off their six-minute speech by heart, as well as their confidence, diction and vocabulary.

You can read the write-up in the York Press here.

Well done to all the children who were involved – all in all it was a very enjoyable evening!


The school debaters at the Merchants Adventurers’ Hall. Photo: David Thewlis

York Civic Trust held its much anticipated annual Secondary Public Speaking Competition at the Merchant Adventures’ Hall on Wednesday 24th November 2021. Organised by the Trust’s Education Committee, nine of the twelve Secondary Schools in York entered teams of two students, impressively tackling contentious and complex issues around the future of their city.

The Sheriff of York, Cllr. Ashley Mason, and The Sheriff’s Lady, Mrs Danielle Mason, attended the event alongside other York Councillors, Civic Trust Members, Parents, Teachers and the general public.

The topics discussed included:

  • Is York really a city of sanctuary?
  • Spending money on flood defences is a waste of resources
  • Working from home is great – let’s keep on doing it?
  • What shall we do with York’s empty shops?

For the first time in the history of the competition first prize was shared between two schools. Big congratulations goes out to the joint winners Huntington School, represented by Nola Fleming and Findley List, and All Saints, represented by Katie Wrenn and Lucy Johnson.

The competition winners lift the Obelisk trophy, with the Sheriff of York and the Sheriff’s Lady. Photo: David Thewlis.

In addition to the iconic Obelisk trophy, to be shared between the two winning schools, book tokens for the four winning speakers and certificates for all participants were awarded. Civic Trust Chief Executive Andrew Morrison invited all participants to spend a day at the Trust offices, helping to shape Trust’s work, including ideas for potential future Blue Plaque recipients. The event affirmed the importance of hearing the views of York’s young people in shaping the Trust’s future development.

Head judge Darrell Buttery said the standard of this year’s event had been ‘exceptional’, remarking that “To hear so many talented young people engaging with their city is wonderful!”

Verna Campbell, chair of the Trust’s Education Committee added: “I’m proud to live in a city where we have such excellent schools producing these amazing young people. York is in safe hands!”

Click here the read the full write-up in York Press.


Secondary school competition

The participating schools were:- All Saints, Archbishop Holgate, Bootham, Joseph Rowntree, Manor, Millthorpe, The Mount, Vale of York and York High.

Students from 9 York schools entered this year’s Secondary Public Speaking Competition held at King’s Manor on Wednesday 20th November. Each school team made their presentation to Civic Trust members, parents, teachers and this year’s Civic Party. It was most fitting to be joined by the Lord Mayor, Cllr Janet Looker, as for many years she was one of the competition judges.

The school teams were able to select from the following topics:-

+ The most significant figures in York history are male.

+ There ARE good examples of 21st century architecture in York. But the past is the best.

+ School children should be in school attending their lessons, not out on the streets protesting against climate change.

+ It is the Arts rather than the Sciences which have contributed most to York as a city.

+ Do we need another new Roman museum in York?

+ York Council has voted to make the city carbon neutral by 2030. Is this really going to make a difference to the world?

The winners were Sophia Matravers and Antonia Geldard from Archbishop Holgate School. They debated the topic, ‘The most significant figures in York history are male.

The winning team receive their certificates and the trophy from the Lord Mayor.

In second place was Millthorpe School and Manor Academy came third. The Lord Mayor, Cllr Janet Looker, presented all participants with a certificate and the winning school received the Dick Reid designed obelisk Trophy. The winning pupils also each received a £25 book token.

The Press report of the event can be found online.

Primary school competition

The 2019 primary school public speaking competition was held on 19 June in the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall. The audience included the Sheriff of York, parents, teachers and members of the City of York Council and York Civic Trust.

Eleven schools entered the competition. The children debated in pairs, with one exception. They selected from the following topics:-

  • Should York be more like New York?
  • Which are the best buildings built in York in the last 100 years?
  • Is York a safe city to cycle around?
  • If you met a Roman centurion today, which parts of York would you show him?

Announcing the results the head judge Darrell Buttery, commented on the quality of each entry before declaring Florence Anderson and Amy Farmer from Naburn Primary School the 2019 winners. The Mount School came second and St. Wilfrid’s RC School were third.

There was a special award for Emily Hawksworth from Lord Deramore’s Primary School, who soldiered on with her presentation alone, after her debating partner had to pull out at the last minute.

The Sheriff of York who presented the prizes, commented that public speaking was a great skill to have, “you are all fantastic… I’m very excited about the future that you are going to have.'”

See the report in The Press and video highlights of primary school pupils participating in the 2019 public speaking competition can be viewed below or on YouTube here.

This year’s secondary public speaking competition will take place in the autumn.



Secondary school competition

Pupils from 8 schools entered the 2018 Secondary School Public Speaking Competition. The competition was held in King’s Manor on Wednesday 21 November in the presence of the Lord Mayor, Sheriff and full Civic Party. The participating schools were:- All Saints RC, Bootham, Joseph Rowntree, Manor CE Academy, Milthorpe, St Peter’s, The Mount and Vale of York Academy.

Topics for discussion were:

+ Restoring old buildings or building for the future – which should be the priority for our city?

+ Do York’s shopping streets need saving from hairdressers, nail bars and coffee shops?

+ Was York more diverse in the Roman period than it is today?

+ Women make up half of York’s population but are they suitably represented in positions of influence in the city?

+ What changes must York overcome to remain a successful city over the next 100 years?

The winning school was Manor represented by Alexander Savkovic and Ben McBride. They took on the challenge of debating the future of York over the next 100 years.

The Lord Mayor The Right Hon. Cllr Keith Orrell presented the students with the Civic Trust’s Trophy, an obelisk designed by Dick Reid.

For more information see the report in The Press.

2018 Secondary School Competition Highlights are below:

Primary school competition

The 2018 primary school public speaking competition was held on 27 June in the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall. The audience included the Lord Mayor and Sheriff of York, parents, teachers and members of the City of York Council and York Civic Trust.

Eleven schools entered the competition. Each school was represented by two pupils who selected from the following topics:-

  • It is a pity that there is not a York Workhouse today.
  • Is York really the best UK city in which to live?
  • What would you do with the area taken up by the Castle Car Park?
  • If you could go back in time, in a time machine, would you choose to go back to Victorian or Roman York?
  • Who should get York Civic Trust’s next Blue Plaque?

Announcing the results the head judge commented on the quality of each entry before declaring St. Wilfrid’s RC School the 2018 winners.

Daniel Healey-Smith and Millie Batterton receiving their trophy from the Lord Mayor
Celebrating the evening — all competitors and judges with the Lord Mayor and Sheriff of York

2018 Primary School Competition Highlights can be viewed here:


Secondary school competition

Pupils from secondary schools across York made their voices heard as part of the 2017 Secondary School Public Speaking Competition. This year the competition was held in King’s Manor on Wednesday 22 November. Nine schools took part:- All Saints RC, Bootham, Fulford, Joseph Rowntree, Manor CE Academy, Milthorpe, St Olave’s, Vale of York Academy and York High.

Topics for discussion were: Is a development made of old shipping containers right for the centre of York? The King’s Manor was once the home of the Council of the North: it should be again! What will visitors of the future find most interesting about York of today? York is a place to visit, not a place to live. Museums are boring!

Each school was represented by two pupils and this year the top prize went to York High’s duo, Oscar Dewine and Sam Holland whose chosen subject was ‘Museums are boring!’

Education PSC17

Primary school competition

The 2017 primary school competition was on 5 July, when St Wilfrid’s RC Primary School won the prize, for the third year in a row, from 13 other schools. The winning speakers, Ruby Harrison and Freddie Thornton, spoke on their chosen subject: York Minster is world famous but is it the lesser known buildings that tell York’s story?

Ruby Harrison and Freddie Thornton of St. Wilfrid’s School at the podium.
The winning entrants receiving their award certificates from Lord Mayor Barbara Boyce
The Lord Mayor (centre) with all the winners of the Primary School Public Speaking Competition in July 2017

A report in The Press can be found online, with video highlights of primary school pupils participating in the July 2017 public speaking competition can be viewed below or on YouTube here.

2016 Winners

Secondary school competition

The latest competition for secondary school pupils was held on 16 November 2016 in York’s Council Chamber. Milo Gildergate McMullen and Francesca Mitten of Bootham School were the worthy winners of the secondary school competition. They chose the theme “two hours in York is a waste of time”. Here is the York Press report.

2016-17 winners, Francesca Mitten and Milo Gildergate McMullen of Bootham School, with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress.

Below is a 9 minute film of highlights from that competition (or can be seen on YouTube here)



Beau Gascoigne and Ellen York were the winning speakers at the competition for primary school pupils on Wednesday 6 July 2016, at the Merchant Adventurers’ Hall, among strong competition of 14 schools. They are from St Wilfrid’s school, and spoke about whether a Roman soldier or Viking warrior would win in a duel.

Lady Mayoress Susan Ridley, and Sheriff Jonathan Tyler awarded their prize.
Here is a film of highlights of the young people speaking (or can be seen on YouTube here).

The secondary school competition was at York Guildhall on 9 December 2015. From a strong field, the winners were Lorien and Maya Birch of Fulford School. You can see the York Press report here. One of the popular topics was the Civic Trust’s Blue Plaques – what should or should not be included.

A team of two children speaks for 5 to 8 minutes on one of the topics of local and historic interest given as choices to the schools. Their audience has included parents and other family, teachers and Civic Trust members. Prizes included £25 vouchers for each of the young winners and tickets to Fairfax House for them and their families. The winning school received a trophy for the year, and a DVD which shows the whole competition. Here is a clip from the 2015 competition (or on YouTube).


In July 2015 the primary school competition winners received their prize from Cllr Sonja Crisp, Rt Hon the Lord Mayor of York, with their families among the audience. The winning school was St Wilfrid’s, with speakers Isabel Jatto and Maeve Reeve-Smith. Second was Huntington Primary, with speakers Alex Bonfield and Will Stone. Third was Westfield Primary, with speakers Toby Watson and Leah Stewart. Here is a film showing highlights of those three teams’ talks.

In November 2014, secondary schools Bootham, Fulford, Huntington, Joseph Rowntree, Manor CE Academy, St Olave’s and The Mount all fielded a team in the presence of the Lord Mayor of York. Dougie Buchanan of Huntington School was the winner, even though his speaking partner was unable to come at the last minute. Ethan McKinney and Sophie Bone of St Olave’s were second and Daisy Smart and Pietra Sorze of The Mount School third. Here is a three minute film showing highlights of these November 2014 winning teams.


In July 2014, the winning pair of the primary school competition in the Merchant Adventurers Hall were Lorien Birch and Josephine Lewis of Naburn School. They spoke on “what they liked best about York”, and they repeated their talk at the Trust AGM in October 2014. Lord Deramore’s school came second and St Wilfrid’s third – out of eleven competing schools. Here is a film of that competition (8 minutes). 

In the secondary school competition, Georgia Robinson and James de Planta of St Olave’s Schoolwere presented with the winning prize by the Lord Mayor; Huntington School were second and Joseph Rowntree School third. Here is a link to the York Press report . A film of the November 2013 Public speaking competition can be viewed below or on YouTube here.