TBSHS Speakers Highly Commended

Date published: Mon 23 Mar 2020   Author: HLH/ADF   Category: News   Share: Share on facebookShare on TwitterShare on MySpaceShare by Email


For the third year running the school has been Highly Commended by the English Speaking Union for the quality of our oracy culture in a competition open to hundreds of schools from all over the United Kingdom. I am sure that one of the features that most impressed the judges was the fact that, in this term alone, over 20 students have represented the school in various competitions. On the last day of February, eight of them travelled to University College London for another demanding all-day event.

Our teams got off to a very promising start in the first debate, “This House would Make Labour Union Membership Compulsory in Large Industries”. In a room full of ‘novice teams’ (those in their first year of inter-school competition), Connor Davies & Ollie Weight (Year 13) were placed first, ahead of teams from Whitgift and King’s School Canterbury.

  This was a well-deserved victory, with both our speakers delivering well-structured arguments that demonstrated a pleasing grasp of the issues, especially the role played by unions in ensuring safer working conditions. In their room, TBSHS ‘veterans’ James Gor & Scott Lockie (Year 13) also won with Year 11 students Ben Hepworth (another novice) & Elliot Wood a trifle unlucky to achieve only third place. Meanwhile Nabil Shah &Will Worthy (Year 11) were given second place, beating a team from Dulwich College (a perennially strong debating school).

In the second and subsequent rounds, teams face opponents with results similar to theirs, so it was not surprising that our teams faced stronger opponents than in the first round. However, opening for the motion “This House Would Ban Educational Institutions from Including Faith as a Criterion for Selection”, Will & Nabil gained another second place, beaten only by Westminster School. Ollie & Connor, speaking against the motion, were third in their room. Scott & James also led for the Opposition and found themselves embroiled in a dogfight of definitions and generalisations with a team from Eton. 

They did manage to beat the latter, but not the other two teams, from Dulwich and St Paul’s Girls respectively. However, Elliot & Ben had to make do with a fourth place.

Refreshed by their lunchtime pizza, the teams had to grapple with “This House Would grant London autonomous control over its economic and social policy (eg immigration, health and criminal justice), with national taxation policy remaining under the control of the UK government.” Opposing this less than snappy motion, James & Scott felt that they were unlucky to be placed fourth. Connor & Ollie had the misfortune to come up against three teams that would finish in the top 8 of the whole event and recorded a similar result. I watched Ben & Elliot speaking first against the motion.

They argued fluently and forcefully that the proposal would be unfair and undemocratic but did not manage to explain the harms that would ensue and had to be content with being placed third. Nabil & Will, who opened their debate, maintained their remarkably consistent record with another second place, making them the leading TBSHS team after three rounds.

Only one round remained, but who would finish it as our strongest pair? Elliot & Ben put their earlier disappointments behind them and were placed first in their room, but Will & Nabil, opposing the motion “This House Believes That Environmental Activists Should Prioritise Campaigns for Individuals to Have One Fewer Child Over Campaigns to Adjust All Other Consumption Habits”, lost out to strong opponents from Eton, Westminster and South Hampstead High School (the latter the ‘up and coming’ force in schools’ debating this year). Meanwhile, our other two teams had to close the debate for each side in the same room, in what proved to be the most entertaining debate that I observed.  

 For the motion, Scott made his best speech of the day, arguing that drastic action was needed to combat climate change and the motion represented the best way of achieving immediate and lasting change. In response Ollie did a good job of extending the Opposition case, referencing China’s recently abandoned ‘one child’ policy. James then delivered an excellent summary of the case for the motion, identifying points of clash between the two sides and arguing that only his team had considered both long-term and short-term issues. Finally, Connor attacked all four of the Proposition speeches in a lively performance.

The judge agreed with my assessment that James & Scott had won first place, but I felt that Connor & Ollie deserved better than the fourth place that she gave them.

In the final tables, Scott & James were in 19th place out of 61 teams, Nabil & Will were 31st, with Elliot & Ben just behind them in 34th place and Ollie & Connor, in only their second competition, 47th. Scott was our highest scoring speaker (22nd equal), closely followed by Ben and James. and altogether five of our students finished in the top 60. Apart from teams representing Debate Mate, an organisation that selects and trains students from maintained schools in London, our students were the only speakers from the state sector, so they can feel very proud of their achievements. They all appeared to thoroughly enjoy the day and were excellent ambassadors for TBSHS, listening attentively to adjudicators’ feedback and engaging readily with other teams between debates.   A.D .Fraser






Team Photo