Those don't exist in the UK. I've never had to drive somewhere to spell words on a stage. Seems like a hard thing to do for a kid. We just had written tests. 3 times a year, we were given read out 100 words and we had to spell as many of them correctly as possible on paper.
This isn't part of a curriculum. Its just an extracurricular activity.
In my middle school (in Ontario, Canada), we had mandatory class-level spelling bees, and the top X number of each class advanced to the finals, which took place in a mandatory assembly.
We had the same thing but for speeches. You were able to decline going to the event if your speech was chosen but I was a fan of that time of year.
Oh yeah, we had those too.
Yeah speeches were the worst. I remember winning my classroom speech thing where I talked about my cat.. Had to do the speech in front of the whole school and just stayed home that day.