Each year, the state heats for the Plain English Speaking Awards (PESA) are hosted live in around 24 schools across metropolitan and regional Victoria. This year, we reached out to schools who had previously participated in the competition to gauge interest in an online format. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so we adapted the competition to video conferencing, in which over 100 students registered to compete.
Throughout the 11 state heats, the standard of competition was extremely high. Students took the transition to an online format in their stride, delivering compelling speeches from their bedrooms, living areas or school classrooms. When unavoidable tech issues arose, competitors impressed adjudicators with their ability to remain calm and composed.
This year, competitors tackled issues surrounding feminism, the prison system, gender, environmentalism, mental health, and more. ‘That there was no difference in quality in the speeches this year, now delivered online, is testament to the enormous talent of this year’s PESA competitors,’ remarked veteran PESA adjudicator Travis Lines.
The online transition also included some pleasant surprises. Students from regional schools – such as PESA 2020 semi-finalists Josephine Gallagher of Swifts Creek P–12 College, and Tristan Gibbs of Brauer College – did not face the challenge of a long commute to compete. And, for the first time, the competition was able to draw on the expertise of an international adjudicator, the New Zealand based Caitlin Grieve.
On Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17 June 2020, nearly 30 students will compete in the PESA 2020 semi-finals. From these hotly contested competitions, we will draw our state finalists who will compete in the Victorian State Final, scheduled for Friday 24 July 2020.