The academic excellence for which JAGS is known is supported by a diverse and exciting extra-curricular programme designed to give girls the opportunity to develop new skills, gain experience of leadership, to help and support others and to have fun. If it’s not here and it’s wanted, we start it – often as a sixth form initiative. This is how the sixth form lunchtime seminar group began, the Feminist group and the JAGS Sailing Club. Music, Drama and PE are all very strong, with voluntary work a further pillar of all we do beyond the classroom.
There is such an extensive range of extra-curricular activities at JAGS, it is hard not to find something to enjoy from the clubs and groups currently on offer at lunchtimes and after school: Japanese taster class, film, public-speaking, debating, dance and drama clubs, amnesty, art, Eco group, Eureka maths, madrigals, music theory, music-making of most kinds, history, current affairs, the ethical scientist and philosophy clubs, chess, Christian Union, AFFCAD UK and other Community Action, crosscountry, waterpolo, rowing, indoor climbing and sports galore.
In February 2017, the Y9 public speaking team competed at the London District Finals of the Rotary Youth Speaks Competition. Elana gave a lively speech on The Dangers of Internet Insecurity and Ruby delivered a spirited vote of thanks. Anusha chaired with humour and grace, winning the award for best Chairperson.
Anusha explained the challenge of chairing: “You have to engage everyone in the audience. You take questions from the floor and control with authority, but the judges want you to enjoy it.
The enthusiasm for speaking in public probably all started at a lunchtime Debating Club, where Elana, Ruby and Anusha acquired and practised set skills.
However, this was a public speaking competition - less about facts and conventions, more about spirited, substantiated argument, followed by taking a question from an official. “You need to be able think on your feet, adapt what you’ve prepared.”
Everyone chose their own subjects. Elana said, “I only just got the speech into the allocated time of six minutes. A lot of people don’t know the security flaws there are in technology and I wanted to raise awareness and scare the judges. (Which she did!) Did you know that your pace-maker can be hacked? (That startling revelation had about seven people turning anxiously to each other.) I looked up a lot of sources and specific articles on how roads and traffic lights are hackable.”
Ruby spotted that the better teams of the five seemed to be more colloquial. “You could say at the end that it was helpful to watch and analyse what each team could they have done better. In the vote of thanks, some of them were really lifting up the speaker, so I think I should possibly do this a bit more.”
Separating the content from the presentation, the team observed that you have to address each member of the audience as though only they matter. Posture, pace of delivery, body language are all important. The experience will certainly help. “Bankers, lawyers, teachers - everyone needs to be able to put their points across. It’s not only politicians who do public speaking. It gives you confidence whatever you go on to become.”
Indeed. Anusha, Ruby and Elana will lock away these points in the back of their minds to draw on next time.