Good Results for Junior Debaters

Interschool competition for U14s



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.