A 14-year-old girl has been crowned the winner of a borough-wide speaking contest for her speech focusing on life-changing situations which are out of a person’s control.

Tashani Bent impressed the line-up of seven judges at this year’s ‘Speak Out’ challenge run by the Jack Petchey Foundation.

The student at Walthamstow Academy in Billet Road performed her winning speech entitled ‘Markings’, captivating the audience at the event on Tuesday, November 27.

Tashani said: “I was shocked I really didn’t expect to win, the competition level was so high.”

Buxton School in Terling Close, Leytonstone, hosted the night which saw Tashani scoop a £100 prize and the chance to go through to the grand final of the competition to be held next summer.

A very respectable second place went to India Thornhill-Dyer, 15, of South Chingford Foundation School with her speech “A troubled high achiever” while third prize was handed to Mussa Hussien, 15, of Kelmscott School with his speech "(Men)tal health”.

The Mayor of Waltham Forest, Cllr Sally Littlejohn, presented the awards and said: "A huge thank you to Jack Petchey and Speakers Trust who pull out all the stops to help young people build their confidence to speak."

The ‘Speak Out’ Challenge is the world’s largest youth speaking event in the world, with over 19,000 students in London and Essex taking part.

It is supported and funded by the Jack Petchey Foundation and designed and delivered by Speakers Trust.

Over 560 Year 10 students in Waltham Forest’s state secondary schools received a one-day public speaking and communications training workshop.

During the course, students were given the skills and the confidence to develop and deliver a speech on a topic that is important to them.

The judging panel at the event included Stephanie Ampofo, young curator and spoken word artist; Wayne Walton of Forest Radio; Mark Rule of Boxing4Life; Chantelle Scott of Enabling Enterprise; Sanjay Prasad of Waltham Forest Fire Brigade; John Beckett of Safer Schools & Youth Engagement and Sabiha Makda, runner-up at last year’s Waltham Forest regional final.