Online Debating Success for Year 13 Students

Two Year 13 students achieve outstanding result

Date published: Thu 8 Oct 2020   Author: HLH/ADF   Category: News   Share: Share on facebookShare on TwitterShare on MySpaceShare by Email


Wet and windy weather greeted two intrepid debating teams as they arrived at school at 8.00 am on a Saturday morning to spearhead our first foray into online interschool debating. Year 13 students Nathaniel Carn (in only his second competition) and Amy Raymond (making her TBSHS debut) joined seasoned Year 12 campaigners Finn Lihoreau and Tom Harding for an event organised by Imperial College London. Sixty-five teams, including representatives from Budapest & Manila, as well as well-known British schools such as Eton, Westminster and St Paul’s Girls, were involved in four hard-fought rounds of debating.

The first motion of the day saw both our teams, in their respective rooms in the Globe building, closing the case for a ban on strikes by public sector workers. Amy & Nathaniel had to follow a very strong team from Eton in a debate that focussed mainly on medical workers. Amy did well to extend the debate to include teachers and civil servants, in addition to refuting the Opposition’s arguments and dealing well with a Point of Information that they raised. Nathaniel fulfilled his role as summary speaker expertly, identifying the key points of the debate and explaining why he felt that the arguments made by his side (and particularly Amy) had carried the day. The team gained a third place, a promising start given the quality of their opponents. Meanwhile Tom & Finn were also placed third in a debate won by a strong St Paul’s Girls pair.

The second round saw our two teams in direct opposition, with Finn & Tom speaking first in favour of the very topical motion “This House Believes Schools Should Heavily Emphasise the Flaws of Historical Figures”.  

 Tom & Finn prepare

Finn’s opening speech was very well-structured and clearly explained. He stated that it is better to give students a realistic picture of heroic figures so that they realise that nobody is perfect and furthermore that this would be better done, in a balanced way, by teachers rather than relying on social media. Tom backed him up strongly, accusing the opening Opposition speaker of wanting to pick and choose what is taught about figures of the past and arguing that learning that their heroes overcame past mistakes would inspire students and teach them resilience. For the Opposition, Amy picked up the word “heavily” in the motion and pointed out the danger of teachers imposing their views on students and painting too negative a picture of historical figures. Once again Nathaniel produced a well-rounded summary speech, identifying points of clash and challenging the Proposition’s arguments. Tom & Finn were perhaps a little unlucky not to win in this round, but gained a strong second place, with Nathaniel & Amy in another solid third.

The first motion after lunch was This House Would Hand Over Control of Public Health to a Panel of Independent Experts”, with both our teams opening for the Opposition. Nathaniel spoke very well in this debate, asking who would appoint the panel and questioning whether they would become political appointments, similar to the US Supreme Court, rather than truly independent. Amy also showed that she taken advice from earlier rounds on board, with a well-structured speech in which she pointed out that the experts would not be accountable and the Proposition had not specified how they could be removed. The team was rewarded with a first place. However, Finn & Tom had not fared so well. The judge in their room had marked them down heavily for confining their arguments to the NHS in the UK and given them fourth place.

Amy & Nathaniel’s victory had propelled them to the top of the standings among the 13 Novice teams (those with both speakers in their first year of debating), but they came up against stiff opposition in the fourth round and could only finish in fourth place. However, closing the case against the motion “This House Would Prefer a World Without Extreme Emotions”, Tom & Finn both gave their best performances of the day. The former started his speech with some strong rebuttal of his opponents and followed this up by arguing that human reaction to emergencies requires extreme emotions. He went on to assert that the best art, drama and music all involve extreme emotions and warned that, without them, all of us would become apathetic and lose our individuality. Lambasting the Proposition’s belief in restraining emotions, Finn told them “You aren’t taking the middle of the road, you’re just narrowing the path”. Speaking with a fitting passion he rounded off the debate by comparing the world in which we live to the lifeless one that the motion would lead to. The TBSHS team deservedly won this debate.

In the overall results table, Finn & Tom had finished in a very creditable 33rd place, with Nathaniel & Amy, not far behind, having done enough to qualify for the Novice Final, where they would face Alleyn’s and Sevenoaks (both independent schools) and the London Academy of Excellence (a selective sixth form college).

 Amy & Nathaniel prepare 

For the first time they had the chance to open a debate, proposing that “This House Would Ban the Publication of Opinion Polls in the Run Up to Elections”.  Nathan noted the inaccuracy of such polls, citing the US Presidential election of 2016 as an example. He argued that unfavourable polls produce apathy among voters, while supporters of a party that is ahead in the polls may become complacent, fail to vote and see their party lose as a result. Amy brushed aside the Opposition’s attempt to claim that the motion denied free access to information and challenged them to give one concrete benefit of publishing polls just before an election. After a tense wait, the judges pronounced


Retired teacher Tony Fraser commented “I think that this is the first time a team from the school has won a final of this sort. It represents a fantastic achievement for two students who only began debating seriously when they joined the Sixth Form and I was also very pleased for Tom and Finn, who gained a highly respectable placing in the overall table. All our speakers remained positive throughout day, showing great teamwork and resilience. They adjusted well to the different circumstances of the competition, listened to advice and improved with every round. Congratulations to them and many thanks to English Department for letting us use their rooms and the caretakers for opening up the school so early to accommodate us.”