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Peckham boy reigns supreme at speaking competition

VICTORIOUS: Year 10 pupil Najae Hackett has won £2,000 for himself and £10,000 for his school after winning the biggest youth speaking competition in the country

A SCHOOLBOY from Peckham is thrilled he is making headlines for the best reasons after storming to victory in a public speaking competition last Friday.

With a speech entitled Sleep: Our Secret Weapon, Year 10 pupil Najae Hackett charmed judges with his charisma and tongue-in-cheek tribute to his love of a good snooze.

His win at the grand final of the Jack Petchey Speak Out Challenge helped him pocket £2,000 for his savings and £10,000 for his school.

The sports-loving teenager who attends City of London Academy said: "I didn’t think I’d win. I didn’t even plan for my speech to be funny. I just followed the advice of writing about what you know."

He added: "Everyone is tired of hearing sad stories come out of Peckham, so it’s nice to prove that positive things come out of there too.

"Maybe some people might see me as a role model because I am showing there is another type of success and the truth is it’s not always easy in south London. I get a lot of my inspiration from my dad. He’s the person I go to whenever I have problem and he’s never let me down."

To be crowned champion, Najae had to first beat his classmates to represent his school at the Southwark regional finals.

The winners of each London borough were then whittled down to the final fifteen crème de la crème who squared up at a swanky ceremony at London’s Southbank Centre which played host to the country’s largest youth speaking competition.

His dad, Andre Hackett, said: "The whole family is really proud of him. He was fantastic. I felt so nervous. I was scared he was going too fast, but he pulled it off. And he's not lying, you know, that boy loves his sleep."

Runner-up was Megan Cass from St Philomena’s School, Sutton. Third place went to Joel Oyelese from Westcliff High School for Boys, in Essex.

Nathan Nwachukwu, from Chafford School, in Havering, having spoken with wit and intelligence on a subject of race.

Organised by The Speaker’s Trust, the Speak Out Challenge helps teach young people about the virtues of public speaking such as increased confidence and better communication skills.

Judges included MP John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, BBC1 Xtra presenter Gemma Cairney and journalist Garry Bushell.

* Read The Voice next week to find out why black children are excelling at public speaking

Watch the winning speech here:

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