TBSHS Speakers Compete in London

Three Competitions for the Debating Team

Imperial College

The first of three competitions held at universities in London required a very early start for all our speakers, but by 8:30 am on a cold Saturday morning, all four TBSHS speakers and their coach had checked in for four rounds of debating at Imperial College for our first ‘in person’ competition of 2023.

All the motions, which covered the rise of social media as a primary news source, strikes in the public sector, removing gender-based award categories in the Arts and making development aid dependent on good human rights practices, proved to be accessible and appropriate to the speakers involved. The standard of debating was high, with teams from St Paul’s Girls and Eton dominating the final results tables.

The TBSHS teams of Max Porter & Rohan Rana (Year 13) and Henry Aylett & Lewis Ng (Year 11) did not enjoy the best of luck in some of the judgements that they received. Both teams achieved their best results in the second round, where they were drawn in the same room and formed the whole ‘opening half’ of the debate. Speaking first in favour of banning public sector workers from striking, Speaking confidently, as he did all day, Henry defined the terms of the motion and argued that such strikes generate a rift in society and civil unrest They are, he said, therefore unpopular and damage the workers’ cause. In a well-structured speech, Max responded by pointing out that strikes are newsworthy and increase public awareness on poor working conditions as well as low pay. He also referred to the power of the employee, adding that better working conditions and pay result in happier, healthier workers who deliver a better service. Lewis began with some useful rebuttal. Then, stressing the moral aspects of the motion, he observed that, as well as rights, workers have responsibilities to the users of their services, who suffer harm to their health and education through strikes. He described strike action on such circumstances as “blackmail”. Rohan described public sector strikes as “a last resort for workers when all other tactics have failed” and added that they cause much soul-searching for those involved. He went on to dismiss the idea that the workers are not forced to stay in their jobs by decrying the loss of highly-trained professionals to emigration or different jobs. The other two teams in the debate represented King’s School Canterbury and South Hampstead High School, both independent schools worth a good record in this sort of competition, so Lewis & Henry can feel very pleased with their first place in this debate, while Rohan & Max were only just edged out of second place.

Henry & Lewis gained a second place in the last round and finished 35th out of 48 teams, with Max & Rohan not far behind. This was a tough competition for our speakers- Henry and Max were both representing TBSHS for the first time and none of them had competed for the school in person before.


London School of Economics & Political Science

The first Sunday of half-term saw three teams of TBSHS students competing at LSE, over three rounds of closely fought debates. The newly-formed pair of Rohan Rana (Year 13)  & Robert Gor (Year 10), speaking second against the implementation of an open curriculum for secondary schools, got off to a winning start, defeating, among others, a team who had flown in from Bombay specially for the competition.  Robert explained how important key skills are, cast doubt on the ability of younger secondary students to make the best subject choices and, crucially, argued that it would be very difficult for students wishing to take up a subject later in their school career to catch up on the material they had missed. Summing up, Rohan made much of this last point to attack the claims that an open curriculum is more flexible and offers greater opportunity to change courses, as well as stressing the importance of student welfare. In their room, Aidan Quinn & Oliver Worthy (Year 12) opened the debate and were placed second, ahead of another team from India.. Speaking first against the motion, Alex Banhidai & Luca Ollandini (Year 12) finished a very close third.

The second debate of the day involved a very topical motion “This House, as Prince Harry, Regrets publishing the memoir ‘ Spare’”. Facing teams from Dulwich College and Eton, Oliver had to open the case against the motion. He focussed very much on right to speak out and hold the Royal Family to account and how this would have had a positive effect on his mental health. He was well backed up by Aidan, who argued that seeking popularity is less important than doing what is right and speaking out about abuse. Seeing Harry do so, he said, would encourage members of the public to do the same. Against such strong opponents, third place was a very encouraging result. Meanwhile, our other two teams were both closing the case for the motion and gaining second places, with Luca & Alex only beaten by a very strong team from St Paul’s Girls and Rohan & Robert just behind another team from Eton. The organisers provided pizza for lunch, which we able to enjoy al fresco before returning for the third debate of the day.

The motion “This House Believes that, in a country where compulsory military service for men exists, feminists should argue for the conscription of women”. Their earlier successes had put Rohan & Robert into the same room as some of the best teams and they had to be content with a disappointing fourth place. The other two TBSHS teams were drawn in the same room, closing each side of the debate. Unfortunately, they both fell into the trap of focussing too much on the relative capabilities of men & women in warfare rather than what view of conscription should be taken by feminists. Consequently Oliver & Aidan gained third  place, just ahead of Alex & Luca. Despite these disappointing results, Robert & Rohan finished in 19th place out of 40 teams, with Aidan & Oliver 27th and Luca & Alex 33rd.


University College London