400 Southwark secondary school pupils are taking part in the "Speak Out" Challenge this month leading up to a final to be judged by Simon Hughes MP and travel writer Simon Calder.
At the end of each workshop a speech contest is held. The winner goes through to the Southwark borough final. The winner from this final, as long as their marks are high enough, will then go through to the grand London final to be held in July at the Mermaid Theatre.
Judges for the Southwark borough final will include Simon Hughes MP, Southwark-based writer and broadcaster Simon Calder and Cllr Caroline Pigeon.
This challenge is the biggest public speaking event in Europe with prizes totalling £15,000, making it the largest award ever for public speaking.
"Youth today get lots of bad press and I want to see that change," says Jack Petchey OBE.
"I am a great believer in the ability to speak well and with confidence. Most young people hold strong views and feel passionate about them but can't always put that across.
"Our challenge gives them the opportunity to be trained how to express themselves clearly and without fear. This will help them gain a more positive image in the media."