Students took to the stage in Halstead as they battled it out to be crowned the area’s best speaker.

The north Essex regional final of Jack Petchey’s Speak Out Challenge was held at the Ramsey Academy.

It saw some of the best secondary school pupils give public speeches in front of hundreds of people.

The competition forms part of the national Speak Out challenge which aims to give children the skills and confidence needed when speaking publicly.

This year’s regional winner was 15-year-old Amarni-Jai Newman, of Forest Hall School, in Stansted, whose impassioned speech about having a voice impressed the judging panel which included District Commander for Braintree and Uttlesford, Craig Carrington and Halstead town council clerk Sarah Greatorex.

For winning first place, Amarni-Jai claimed a £100 gift certificate and qualifies for the national final which is to be held in Covent Garden in July.

Joedel Delaney, 15, from Maltings Academy, in Witham, finished in second place with his speech Body Shaming’s Bad. Third Place was presented to Melissa Forrester, 14, from Notley High School for her a speech called Atychiphobia.

Halstead Mayor Shirley Diver, who presented the awards to the winners, said: “The speeches tonight from the students were extraordinary.

“I so admired them being able to speak so well without notes and under pressure from being judged and timing rules.

“I am glad that going up there I didn’t have to contend with timing lights and judges. “The Jack Petchey Foundation and the Speakers Trust do a tremendous job in going into our schools bringing this vital life skill to our students – so useful in so many areas of life.”