A teenager speaking out openly about his autism won the Hackney regional heat in the Jack Petchey Foundation’s public speaking competition for secondary school pupils.

James Tuitt Adjei gave a speech about “life on the spectrum” and standing up for who he is.

“Being scared may be natural,” he said in his speech. “But fear should never define who you are.”

The 15-year-old, who attends Mossbourne Community Academy in Lower Clapton, won £100 and went through to semi-finals with a chance for the grand final later this year.

“I haven’t won anything like this ever,” he said afterwards. “This is the biggest thing I’ve done since primary school.”

Runner-up was Taliyah Jones from Haggerston School with a speech about a self-fulfilling “pupil to prison” prophecy. Third was Isabelle Abbott from Hackney’s City Academy with a speech about expectations.

Some 25,000 Year-10 pupils from 500 state schools in London and Essex are taking part in this year’s “Speak Out” challenge.

Each school votes for a speaker for the regional heats. James won the first round to qualify for the semi-final and a chance to represent Hackney at the grand final, with top prize of a £2,000 bursary and £3,000 for the winning school.