Speaking Successes

Debating and Public Speaking

Date published: Fri 4 Jan 2019   Author: HLH/ADF   Category: News   Share: Share on facebookShare on TwitterShare on MySpaceShare by Email


November always marks the start of the competitive debating/public speaking ‘season’ and this year it has once again been a good month for TBSHS speakers. Straight after half term, George Hobart (Year 13) and Scott Lockie (Year 12) travelled to the Perse School in Cambridge for the first round of the ESU Debating Mace. In the first debate our hosts, whom we met in last year’s competition, gave a very polished performance, proposing “This House Would Build on the Green Belt” against a young team from Heritage School. Then, speaking for the motion “This House Would Ban The Sale And Consumption Of Meat”, TBSHS took on Culford School. George made a very measured speech, laying out the terms of the debate and concentrating on the practical problems caused by meat farming, especially the damage to the environment. The first Culford speaker spoke confidently, raising several good points, including the likelihood of a black market in meat and the consequent bad treatment of animals. Scott fulfilled the role of second Proposition speaker extremely well, refuting almost all of the previous speaker’s arguments as well as touching on the moral reasons for not eating meat, and turning the debate in our favour. This trend was continued when Scott stopped the second Opposition speaker in his tracks with an excellent point of information and reinforced by a strong summary speech from George, in which he countered points raised in the floor debate and explained convincingly why his team had won the debate. The final debate, “This House Would Weight Votes Such That The Younger The Voter, The More Powerful Their Vote”, was contested by two young, inexperienced teams from Bassingbourn Village College and Bury St Edmunds County Upper School.

General agreement in the audience was that the Perse were the best team of the night, and I would have placed us second behind them. When the results were announced, the Perse, TBSHS and the Heritage School were placed in the top three and therefore progress to the next round in January.

I thought that this was a promising performance from two students making their debut in this competition, who were only beaten by a more experienced team. There are certainly areas where improvements can be made, and I’m sure they will work hard in preparation for the next round to bring these about.



The Senior section of Rotary Club’s “Youth Speaks” public speaking competition in Bishop’s Stortford is always well attended and this year’s contest was certainly no exception, with no fewer than 10 teams from a total of seven local schools scheduled to take part. Unfortunately, one school failed to turn up but the evening was still very keenly contested. Our Year 10 team, one of the youngest at this level, had spent the day on a trip to Westminster and two had also had to attend a meeting in school when they returned, so it was arranged that their presentation would be amongst the last to be heard.

Undaunted by their challenging schedule and the pressure of trying to become the third successive High School team to lift the coveted shield, our students (mentored by Miss Davies) gave an excellent lively performance. Introducing the topic “How To Spot A Feminist”, chairman Finn Lihoreau spoke confidently (if at times a little too fast), amusing the audience with some clever puns and explaining why feminism is still relevant today. Main speaker Elliot Wood spoke with great eloquence and animation. His arguments were extremely well reasoned and delivered with real conviction, as he described how three teenage students from an all-male school had been influenced by their sisters, leading him to conclude that we should all be feminists. Finn Aylott’s confident, well-paced vote of thanks demonstrated that he has developed into an excellent speaker. Crucially, all three students spoke without reference to their notes (in Elliot’s case for six minutes), a feat that proved beyond almost all the other participants, and fulfilled the requirements of their roles exactly as laid down by the organisers.

After more than two hours of presentations, the judges’ deliberations were mercifully short and they placed TBSHS first, with a Sixth Form team from the College second. They praised our team for the quality of their ideas and the enthusiasm with which they were presented. They also noted the students’ excellent teamwork, commenting on the way that they listened attentively to each other’s speeches and reacted to them.


A week later, it was the turn of TBSHS teams from Year 8 and Year 9 to enter the fray in the Intermediate Section. All our speakers were new to this competition, but their inexperience certainly did not show. Our Year 8s, first of the six teams to speak, set a high standard with a lively and very original presentation entitled “Put Your Hands Together”, on the subject of clapping. Chairman Daniel Connor displayed a dry sense of humour and a winning smile in his introduction of the topic and his team mates, and generally held the presentation together very well. Main speaker Joe Lee’s confident and well-structured speech ranged over many aspects of clapping, including flamenco and Queen’s “Radio Gaga”, all illustrated by the rest of the team. Joe also criticised the decision of some student unions to replace traditional applause by ‘jazz hands’ to accommodate students who find loud noises. After a slightly sticky start, Oliver Worthy recovered superbly to give an amusing and very well-judged Vote of Thanks, culminating in more clapping in the style of a football crowd to express his appreciation of the speech. The TBSHS Year 9 team opted for a more ‘traditional’ presentation considering whether it is “Time To Talk About Animal Testing?”  Will Nancarrow was a confident Chairman, who put the audience at ease and handled all aspects of this demanding role very well. He was followed by Aaron Mehmet, who was later complimented by the judges for the depth of research that had gone into his speech. He delivered it very well too, making excellent use of gesture and vocal variation to convey his passionate stance on the topic without a glance at his notes. However Aaron was occasionally guilty of speaking ‘on the move’, which can be distracting. Igor Bogdanowicz, giving the Vote of Thanks, showed commendable presence of mind in the way that he referenced Aaron’s answer to the question from the audience, a task that often causes problems even for experienced speakers.

After all the teams had spoken, it was clear that both TBSHS teams were in contention, along with one from Bishop’s Stortford College. When the judges gave their verdict, TBSHS Year 8 were declared the winners because of their unusual topic, excellent teamwork and obvious enjoyment of what they were doing. So, for the second successive year, we had ‘done the double’ by winning both sections. I was extremely impressed by all six members of our Intermediate teams, who spoke very clearly, with minimal use of their notes, all of which reflects very well on them and, of course, their coaches Mr Patterson and Mr Shortland.

Our two victorious teams now go on to the District Finals, which will be held on February 6th (Intermediate) and 13th (Senior), in the Essex County Council chamber in Chelmsford.