Debating Update

More Finals for our Debaters

Date published: Mon 22 Feb 2021   Author: HLH/ADF   Category: Publicity   Share: Share on facebookShare on TwitterShare on MySpaceShare by Email

TBSHS debaters have made an excellent start to a very busy term of interschool action, with teams qualifying for the next stage of two competitions in the space of a week. In the English Speaking Union Mace competition, (the oldest event for schools) our speakers became the seventh successive TBSHS team to reach the Eastern England Regional Final and another pair of Year 12 students reached Finals Day of the Oxford Union Schools’ Competition.


ESU Schools’ Mace In the opening round (online for the first time in its 64-year history), Year 12 students Tom Harding, Elliot Wood & Finn Lihoreau were drawn to oppose the motion “This House Would Ban Job Applicants From Disclosing the Names of Educational Institutions They Have Attended”. The school that was due to propose the motion had to drop out of the competition. With none of the other schools in the heat prepared to field a ‘swing’ team, Donovan Wong, Eric Queeney & Dan Jordan (coached by Mr Patterson) volunteered to step into the breach.

Opening the debate, Dan explained that the purpose of the motion was to break down class bias in the job market and produce a more level playing field for job applicants. In a well-ordered speech, he argued that opening up top jobs to more than a privileged elite would benefit the education sector and society as a whole. In reply Finn described the motion as “morally wrong, legally questionable and practically redundant”. He illustrated the first two of these criticisms by pointing out that the motion would criminalise the wrong people as it is employers who discriminate against applicants on the basis of educational background. He went on to explain that it would also encourage fraudulent applications because employers could no longer contact schools or universities to check qualifications.

Speaking second for the motion Eric pointed out that applicants should be judged on their own merits rather than the reputation of their school/university. To this end, he proposed equal standards for universities so that a 3rd class degree from Oxford was not regarded more highly than a First from other establishments. For the Opposition Tom concentrated on the practicalities of the motion, asking how it would be policed and what penalties would breaches of the law incur. He also argued that the motion would prevent positive discrimination in favour of those who had achieved excellent results despite attending failing schools.

After a brief floor ‘debate’ in which members of the other teams typed in questions and comments, Elliot produced a masterly summary speech against the motion, identifying the points of clash in the debate and linking back to the ways that Tom and Finn had shown the motion would do more harm than good and dealing very well with points raised from the floor. Finally, Donovan summed up for the Proposition, cleverly drawing attention back to the unfairness of the present situation and arguing that his side’s proposals would improve it.

Unfortunately, one of the schools involved in the second scheduled debate failed to ‘attend’, so our Year 12 ream offered to take their place and the debate was moved to the end of proceedings, giving them an hour to prepare. Meanwhile teams from two independent girls’ schools debated the rights and wrongs of introducing quotas for women on company boards. I felt that St Albans School for Girls, opposing the motion, had slightly the better of the main speeches, but Queenswood School finished with a much stronger summary speech.

The final motion “This House Believes that Government Policy Should Prioritise the Collective Wellbeing of the Population Over Economic Growth” was proposed by Harris Academy, Rainham, whose team was clearly inexperienced in competition debating. Despite having had several weeks to prepare their speeches, they did not use all the time available for their speeches and were comfortably defeated by Elliot (speaking first this time), Tom and Finn (summary speech). After a short wait, the judge announced that TBSHS and Queenswood would proceed to the Regional Final.


Oxford Schools’ Competition We fielded four teams in the East of England regional round, with no fewer than five students making their representative debuts. They joined 24 other teams, vying for one of five places at Finals’ Day in March over two rounds of debates, the first of which was “This House Regrets the Widespread Expectation to Attend University”.

Our teams were all competing in different breakout rooms, two on either side of the motion. I watched Georgi Petkov & Donovan Wong (Year 11) open the case for the motion against teams from the Perse, Oundle and Bedford Modern Schools. In a well-structured speech Donovan argued that for some jobs, practical experience is much more important than academic learning and the expectation on young people to attend university devalues those jobs. Making his interschool debut, Georgi gave a lively performance, questioning the Opposition’s assertion that university increases social mobility by pointing out the level of debt incurred. He also explained how some young people were pressured into abandoning their career ambitions. Meanwhile in their room Year 10 first-timers Luca Ollandini & Oliver Worthy closed for the Opposition. Mr Patterson reports that both students ‘punched above their weight’ against older, more experienced opponents. They remembered all the advice about clear structure, considering the economic, political and social aspects of the topic. The judge praised them for linking their arguments back to the motion and to points made by other teams.

The second motion of the evening, “Assuming the Technology Exists, This House Would Permanently Remove the Ability of Soldiers to Experience Fear”. This time three of our teams were allocated to the same room. Speaking first for the motion, Nabil Shah (Year 12) said that they would give soldiers the choice over having their fear removed, arguing that the measure would make them better fighters and pointing out that “If we don’t use the technology, it won’t stop other countries doing so”. He was backed up by Max O’Reilly (Year 12), who drew attention to the reduced cost involved as soldiers would no longer need to be trained to overcome their fears and argued that PTSD would also decrease. In Opposition, Rohan Rana & Toby Flood (Year 11), both making very assured competitive debuts, focussed more on ethical considerations. Rohan spoke out about the immorality of exploiting vulnerable young soldiers as well as arguing that people who lack fear would worry less about the consequences of their actions, making them less merciful. Toby looked at the potential effects on society with ex-soldiers who feel no empathy with those who were afraid and reduced recruitment into the armed a result of the motion being implemented. The debate was rounded off by Donovan & Georgi. The latter was the first Opposition speaker to raise concerns about the increased power of the state and the devaluation of human life that would be caused, as well as pointing out that fear is an often important for one’s self-preservation. In his summary speech, Donovan rightly attacked the inconsistency and uncertainty that making the treatment optional would cause and provided a good overview of the debate as a whole. When the results were announced we found out that Max & Nabil had qualified for Finals’ Day alongside teams from Ipswich School, Gresham’s School, Norwich School and Bury St Edmunds County Upper.

Retired teacher Tony Fraser commented “These were two very successful evenings for TBSHS debaters. All our speakers had worked hard in preparation and were well-organised and very positive throughout. The ESU team maintained our excellent record in the Mace and I believe that this the first time that we’ve had two separate teams in the Cambridge and Oxford finals. Many thanks are due to Mr Patterson for coaching the swing Mace team as well as mentoring the Year 10 team in the Oxford competition, and also to Ms Davies and Dr Coke-Woods for their support at the latter event”.