English Speaking Union Mace
Plus: Rotary Club Interschool Quiz
English Speaking Union Mace
The TBSHS debating team prepared for their second ESU Mace Eastern Region Final (the eighth successive time we have reached this stage of the competition) with high hopes of repeating last year’s historic success, and still having to compete online.
Unusually, RHS Holbrook, a school with a very good record in the Mace, was the only one of the other five teams involved from the independent sector, and they were drawn to debate the motion “This House Would nationalise the energy supply system” against TBSHS. Opening his well-paced speech, Finn Lihoreau explained that the debate focussed on the delivery and distribution of energy throughout the UK being taken back under Government control. This, he argued, would bring about improvements in three key areas – equity, economic efficiency and longevity. Finn demonstrated the unfairness of the current system, where British consumers fund dividends paid to large-scale foreign investors such as the French Government (the owner of EDF). He went on to point out that without these dividends, there would be money to improve the system and energy bills would still be lower. In contrast, the first speaker from Holbrook favoured a complementary system, where private energy companies would remain, but under tighter regulation and the UK Government would offer more help to those in fuel poverty.
Will Worthy rebutted his arguments effectively by remarking that this did not address the unfairness highlighted by Finn or provide lower energy prices for most consumers. He then cleverly widened the scope of the debate by looking to the future and, in particular, the need to move towards renewable energy sources. Will explained that nationalisation would bring a co-ordination of supply as well as economies of scale not possible from a “hotchpotch of green companies” and that elected governments are more accountable to the people than businesses are. The second Holbrook speaker responded by claiming that energy suppliers’ complaints mean that this is not so and suggested that nationalisation would encourage a dependency culture among consumers.
The summary speeches followed a brief floor debate, with the Opposition arguing that nationalisation would be ideological and impractical, placing too great a burden on the economy and repeating the case for stricter regulation and increased grants from central Government. Closing the debate in his usual lively, analytical style, Elliot Wood identified the key points of the debate as a whole, stressing the ethical superiority of nationalisation over the present arrangements. He also argued that it would do more to drive the development of the energy supply system and also be more beneficial to consumers, picking up Will’s point that those in need of state benefits to stave off fuel poverty were less likely to ‘fall through the cracks’ if the Government were also responsible for the distribution of energy supplies.
There followed two more debates, the first between Southend High School for Boys, proposing that “This House Would abolish timed exams as a means of assessment in education, against St Benedict’s School from Bury St. Edmunds. This was a closely-fought encounter, with both sides producing persuasive and well researched arguments about anxiety, the need to be able to work under pressure and the purposes of education.
Finally, One Sixth Form College (Ipswich) and Longsands Academy (St Neots), both schools appearing at this stage for the first time, tackled the more 21st century topic “This House Believes that ‘influencer culture’ is a force for good”, with the Suffolk establishment proposing. The theme of the debate proved to be a tricky concept to define, which made it difficult for either side to deliver really convincing arguments.
My impression was that the overall standard of debating was higher than in most previous years and more uniform, with no teams standing out as being notably worse than the others. The judges eventually delivered their verdict that the team from Southend High School for Boys was victorious. Their deliberations had actually taken 50 minutes, so this must have been a very close decision. Despite the added pressures of their responsibilities in the Sixth Form Leadership Team, Oxbridge entry and drama school auditions, our team members have performed extremely well again this year and were unlucky not to reach their second successive Finals’ Day.
Rotary Club Interschool Quiz
Revived after a year’s break because of the pandemic, the Bishop’s Stortford Rotary Club quiz saw two teams from reigning champions TBSHS, two from Herts & Essex, two from our hosts Bishop’s Stortford College and one each from Birchwood and St Mary’s take to the buzzers for this University Challenge style event. Each team must contain at least two students from Year 11 or below.
In the first round TBSHS A (Elliot Wood, Robin Munday, Alex Banhidai & David Badcock defeated Herts & Essex B by 200 points to 120 and TBSHS B (Harry Bignall, Shannon McCormack, Oliver Worthy and Sam Cowler) saw off Birchwood 180 – 140. This was the first time that I can recall both our teams reaching the semi-finals, so hopes were high. However, the questions in the first semi-final fell nicely for the Herts & Essex A team, who were very quick on the buzzer and they established a big lead over TBSHS A before the latter began to claw it back. Unfortunately, time ran out with the score at Herts & Essex A 200 – TBSHS A 180. So now it was all down to TBSHS B, but the College A team hit peak form and defeated them by 380 points to 140, making our hosts favourites for the final in the eyes of most spectators. They had reckoned without the growing confidence of the Herts & Essex team, who were never headed and won out comfortable 310 – 150 winners of the trophy.
So, for our quiz team, like the debaters, it was a case of ‘what might have been’. As Mr Reeve remarked, “Our teams performed well, but just came up against strong terms that were better on the night”. Many thanks to the students who represented the school so well, and to Mr Reeve, Mr Griffiths and all the parents and students who made our teams the best-supported in the event. Special mention should go to Tom Gee (Year 11), our ‘travelling reserve’, who stood in for a self- isolating student at a practice session, came along on the night in case of any last-minute withdrawals and stayed right to the end of proceedings.