Debating Update

Kings College London and University College London Competitions

Date published: Fri 12 Mar 2021   Author: HLH/ADF   Category: News   Share: Share on facebookShare on TwitterShare on MySpaceShare by Email


  King’s College London The first all-day open competition of this term saw three TBSHS teams taking on 45 other teams, including representatives from Bulgaria, Hungary, Pakistan, Kenya and a debating academy in Zimbabwe. Between them leading independent schools Eton, Westminster and St. Paul’s Girls fielded 16 teams, so competition over four rounds of debating was clearly going to be demanding. Eric Queeney & Dan Jordan (Year 11) were drawn to speak second for the motion “This House Would Ban All Advertisements of Consumer Goods and Services”. Dan made a good job of refuting some of his opponents’ points, widened the scope of the debate and argued that advertising is deliberately misleading and can be harmful to the mental wellbeing of consumers. Summing up his side’s case, Eric also attacked the Opposition case, pointing out that the scale of advertising from bigger companies squeezes smaller firms out of the market and reinforcing Eric’s arguments. Unfortunately, they were awarded fourth place, with a team from Eton coming first. Amy Raymond (Year 13) & Finn Lihoreau (Year 12) suffered a similar fate but Elliot Wood (Year 12) & Georgi Petkov (Year 11) fared better, placing second ahead of teams from Eton & Westminster.

After the first round, teams with similar rounds are drawn in the same room, so two TBSHS teams found themselves on opposing sides in the ‘top half’ of the next debate, “This House Supports the German Model of Academic Streaming” (speakers were shown information about what this entails). In a well-structured opening speech Eric stated that the German three-tier system provides appropriate education for more students and generates more respect for workers in the less skilled occupations, such as delivery driving, that have proved so important in the current pandemic. In response Finn said that a system that builds people up is better for society than one that limits them and argued that the proposed system would be ineffectual because it is impossible to predict students’ eventual level of achievement accurately at age 11. Dan supported Eric, arguing that in later life, job experience outweighs academic achievement and it is not impossible for students to move between tiers. Amy countered Dan by referring to setting in our present system and was also the first speaker to question the morality of categorising students as young as 10 or 11, making many of them feel like failures. 

The same judge whose verdict in the previous round had baffled Amy & Finn awarded them first place, with Dan & Eric claiming a respectable third place. Meanwhile, in a tougher room, Georgi & Elliot, speaking last against the motion, had to be content with fourth place.   

Refreshed by the lunch break, TBSHS teams bounced back in the afternoon session. Unfortunately, Elliot & Georgi found themselves with the difficult task of proposing that This House Prefers a World Where All Works of Fiction are Published Anonymously” in a room with two Eton teams and one from Westminster. Opening the debate Elliot described the current situation where a writer’s name, not the quality of writing, determines sales of a book and leads to bidding wars between publishers. Anonymous publishing, he argued, would alleviate this and earn most writers more respect. Georgi argued that writers with controversial views about oppressive regimes would enjoy greater freedom and less fear of retribution if their names did not appear. They were awarded third place in what was, by common agreement, a very close content. Rounding off the debate in their room, Finn & Amy came second, while Eric & Dan, opening the case against the motion, earned first place. 

The fourth motion of the day was “This House Believes That it is Legitimate to Evade Tax in a Dictatorship”, with all our teams in the ‘bottom half’ of their debate. Extending the case for the motion, Amy attacked the assertion by previous speakers from Eton that dictators spend taxes on public services in order o retain, pointing out that ordinary people have no say, via the ballot box, on how their taxes are spent and reminding them that dictators are the worst tax evaders themselves. Finn opened his summary speech by asking “How would you feel if you had to pay taxes to a government that you had no chance to vote out, with no control over how the money was spent?” He went on to identify the major areas of clash in the debate, stressing that it was about a matter of principle, not the practicalities that the first two teams had focussed on. The team’s approach clearly impressed the judge, who placed TBSHS a very close second behind an Eton, pair but well ahead of a team from Wellington College and another from Eton. Also supporting the motion, Georgi & Elliot were awarded first place and Dan and Eric, opposing, came third in their room.
In the final standings, TBSHS had the two highest placed teams from non fee-paying schools in the competition.  Finn & Amy (both in the top 30 of 96 in the individual speaker rankings) finished in 13th place, missing a place in the Bronze Final by a whisker, with Elliot & Georgi in 26th place. Eric & Dan came 32nd overall, a very creditable result in their first Senior competition.


  University College London   The following weekend saw three more teams from the school competing against 45 others, this time over three rounds of debating and with far fewer overseas teams. It was evident that the first motion of the day, “This House Would Force Companies To Pay All Their Interns”, would not be an easy one to oppose but two of our teams had to do just that. Opening the Opposition case, Nabil Shah (Year 12) dismissed the previous speaker’s description of internship as forced labour by pointing out that it is freely chosen and argued that its purpose is for interns to gain knowledge and experience by observing paid workers.   Max O’Reilly (Year 12) backed him up, considering the economic aspects of the motion and, in particular, the burden that it would place on smaller companies. Unfortunately, the TBSHS pair, up against teams from three independent schools, were placed fourth in their room, a fate shared by Leyla Bubb & Tom Harding (also Year 12), who closed for the Opposition. Toby Ford & Eric Queeney (Year 11), speaking second for the motion, fared a little better with a third place. After an early lunch, the second debate focussed on Radical Political Transparency, a policy where all government documents (except those relating to national security, bur including emails) would be made available to the public. The two TBSHS Year 12 teams found themselves in the same room, on opposite sides. Speaking first in the debate, Nabil produced a well-structured speech, arguing that the motion would force MPs, especially ministers, to act with greater honesty and therefore rebuild trust between themselves and the electorate, which he stated was at an all-time low. Max, who had made a very telling intervention in the leader of the Opposition’s speech, reminded him that the wording on the information slide ensured that national security would not be put at risk and went on to point out that the implementing the motion would be educational and encourage people to get more involved in politics. Leyla fulfilled her role as third speaker against the motion, confidently repudiating some of the Proposition’s points and introducing new material by arguing that media speculation (already very prevalent bout, for instance, the pandemic) would only be encouraged. Tom rounded off proceedings with a nicely rounded overview of the whole debate, identifying the differences between the two sides and explaining the arguments against the motion should hold sway. His speech helped to secure a well-deserved win.   Max & Nabil were perhaps a little unlucky to achieve only third place, although I did agree with the judge that they had not done enough to justify the points they put forward. Eric & Toby, closing for the motion, also came third in their room.

The last debate of the day featured the motion “This House, as a Parent in a Country With Strong Conservative Views, Would Raise Their Children Feminist”. All of the speakers that I watched found this a tricky motion to tackle, with the main point of contention between the two opening teams centring on whether or not it is better to make up their own minds about feminism. Speakers for the motion said that being brought up feminist encourages a global mindset, while the Opposition accused them of supporting brainwashing. Speaking third against the motion, Toby stated that he did not regard feminism as a bad thing in itself, but he was concerned that children in the situation described in the motion would find themselves bullied and friendless at school, making their parents feel guilty and ostracised by society. In an effective summing up speech Eric reinforced this point, attacked the points made for the motion and argued that children benefit from growing up and learning with an open mind, rather than having views forced on them, a situation which in the long term is less stressful for parents too. In a closely-fought debate our team’s focus on the effects on parents as well as children earned them first place.  Speaking second for the motion, Nabil & Max felt that they gave their best performance of the day and were placed second. Tom & Leyla had to open their debate and were placed third behind two teams who finished in the top 10 in the final rankings.

Overall, Eric & Toby achieved 23rd place out of 48, (the third highest out of 15 state school teams) with Leyla & Tom 26th equal and Max & Nabil 33rd.

Retired teacher Tony Fraser commented, “These are very encouraging results in extremely demanding competitions, especially when you consider that almost all our teams in these events contained one student in their first year of interschool debating. I was particularly impressed by the fact that their results tended to improve from round to round, which reflects their resilience and readiness to act on the feedback they received. Congratulations and many thanks to all our speakers for giving up their time to represent the school so well”.