Royal High School year 10 student Ashley Ulaikere placed first in the prestigious Chrystall Prize public speaking competition and will now represent the Bath school in the final, which takes place in March in London.

The Chrystall Prize is named after Chrystall Carter who was the Legal Adviser to the Girls Day School Trust for nine years until her untimely death in 1999. She had a powerful belief in the power of reasoned argument and was passionate about enthusing girls to speak out on issues close to their heart.

Ashley’s speech was written on the question, ‘Is there any magic left in the world?’ and she spoke with great passion about her childhood and the cultural importance of magic in Lagos.

For Ashley, magic exists in science and in the way it enriches our understanding of the world. She focused on rainbows and explained two strange and wondrous facts about them; that rainbows don’t exist ‘out there’, they need the eye to exist as they are an effect of your vision and the angles of refracted light hitting your retina. And if that wasn’t strange enough, Ashley added ‘no-one knows how many colours are in the rainbow, we see seven, but Aristotle saw only one – violet – and Isaac Newton thought there were five. It varies from culture to culture, depending on how you divide up the spectrum’. Rainbows, she argued, symbolise how science adds to our sense of magic and wonder.

In Ashley’s words it all depends on the way you look at things. Judges praised Ashley for her ‘charismatic delivery and instinctive ability to connect with an audience’ giving Ashley noteworthy praise that would inspire us all. ‘Ashley threw out her point rather than hiding behind the pages of a script.’ Hiding her nerves, Ashley was recognized for her warmth, humour and sheer energy within her public speaking.

The Royal High student will compete in the final on Friday 9 March to win the coveted trophy.