Good Results for Junior Debaters
Interschool competition for U14s
GOOD RESULTS FOR JUNIOR DEBATERS
The last interschool competition of the ‘season’ required our longest journey – 31 stops on the Tube, from Epping to East Putney, to attend an event run by the Girls Day School Trust, open to students in Year 9 & below. We arrived at Putney High School in good time and found that, unlike last year, there were a few other male speakers among the other 29 teams there.
The motion for the first debate “This House Would set inheritance tax at 100%” had been released in advance, giving speakers more than the usual 15 minutes to prepare arguments. In their first ever competition Year 9 students Semir Emara & Fin Macfie had to speak second for the motion. Fin brought in some fresh points about the effects on employment and argued that large amounts of inherited wealth are undeserved because the recipients do no work to earn them. Summing up, Semir drew attention to the strength of Fin’s case and countered several Opposition points quite effectively. TBSHS were rewarded with an encouraging second place. Meanwhile our other two teams faced each other in the same room, along with two strong teams from Putney and South Hampstead respectively. Opening for the motion, Thomas Leung & Dan Carlin (Year 8) gained a third place, with Alec Sneddon & Brandon Fage (Year 9), who closed the whole debate, unfortunately fourth.
In the second round, I watched the latter team, accompanied by Mr Sneddon. The motion concerned maternity and paternity leave. Brandon spoke first in favour of parents taking equal amounts of parental leave. In a well-structured speech, he argued that this would help the baby to bond with both parents, as well as bringing them closer together and making them less likely to separate later, The first Opposition speaker took the view that the mother’s experience of carrying the child before birth meant that the bond with her would always predominate and talked about the greater risk to small businesses if two different people took extended parental leave. This point was well countered by Alec, who explained that parental leave is paid leave. In a well organised speech, he also covered gender stereotyping and the advantages of having two parents both used to caring for a child.
The judge awarded TBSHS a narrow win, congratulating them on good analysis of the motion and effective engagement with their opponents’ arguments. Meanwhile, Semir & Fin, watched by Miss Morris and speaking last against the motion, gained another second place, but Dan & Thomas, opening the case against the motion against a strong team from Putney, were placed fourth in their room.
Fortified by pizza provided by our hosts, teams faced what is known as an ‘actor motion’ in the afternoon. They were asked to imagine that “Earth 2” a planet similar to Earth, had been discovered and 10,000 volunteers were being sent to colonise it. Assuming that their family would accompany them, they had to debate “This House Would Volunteer to go to Earth 2”. In their room, Thomas & Dan spoke second for the motion. Speakers in the ‘top half’ of the debate focussed mainly on the practical risks of the mission and the need to solve climate problems on this planet, but Dan took a very different line. Pointing out that the debate was about personal choice, he explained that he would volunteer for such an adventure that would restore pride in the human race and was confident that modern technology would keep him safe.
He followed up a lively speech with a couple of very effective Points of Information.
Thomas produced a well-structured summary of the case for the motion, remembering to praise Dan’s arguments as the most telling contribution to the debate as a whole. The team was justifiably rewarded with a first interschool win, with Alec & Brandon also gaining first place as Opening Opposition and Fin & Semir being awarded yet another second place, speaking first in favour of the motion.
This very pleasing set of results propelled Thomas & Dan to a very respectable 22nd out of 32 teams and meant that our other two teams were tied on 6 team points. Brandon & Alec finished in 9th place, with slightly fewer individual speaker points than Semir & Fin, who were 8th. The latter pair therefore qualified for the Silver Final, as well as being the third-best ‘novice’ team and having both speakers in the top six of speakers in their first interschool event.
While the rest of our speakers travelled home to support Manchester City against AC Milan, Semir & Fin, the only male speakers in the Silver Final, set about opening the case against the motion “This House Believes that MPs should be judged on their political achievements rather than their personal lives”. Both students produced well-structured speeches that reflected how much they had learned during the course of the day. Fin argued that MPs’ private lives must be consistent with the reasons they give for supporting policies and that if they are found to have given a false impression of their own behaviour, it makes it more difficult for their colleagues to work harmoniously with them. Semir asserted that MPs were seen as role models in society. He also pointed out that voters have a right to know the truth about their representatives in Parliament. Unfortunately, their arguments, although well expressed, were not enough to prevent one of two Putney High School teams in the room from winning the debate.
Nevertheless, this had been a very successful day for our young, inexperienced speakers. TBSHS had the highest placed team from a state school., with another of our pairs just behind them. What pleased me most was the fact that all our teams showed improvement as the day went on. Clearly, they listened carefully to feedback from judges and were able to act upon it in later rounds, all of which augurs well for the future. This was a very friendly competition and our students interacted well with their counterparts from other schools. Congratulations to them and many thanks to Miss Morris and Mr Sneddon for giving up a large part of the weekend to support them.