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Debating in the Senior School and Sixth Form

Debating in the Senior School and Sixth Form

In the Autumn Term, the members of St Mary’s debating team were thrilled to be back in the classroom, preparing informal debates, giving speeches, and discussing a range of current affairs issues.

In addition, the team was keen to build on the public speaking successes from last year and, soon enough, the English Speaking Union issued topics for their annual public speaking competition, due to be held in early 2021. Freya L., Freya B. and Felicity W. comprised one team, debating the controversial topic of selling arms; Imogen H.-H., Isabelle M.-S. and Amelie A. made up the second team, presenting on whether it is too late to save the world.

At the last minute, the January lockdown threatened to put a stop to the competition, but via the now familiar wonders of Zoom, the event took place, and with great success. Not only was Isabelle M.-S. awarded the prize of best speaker, but St Mary's Team 2 zoomed ahead into the regional final! The regional final took place a few weeks later: new topics were chosen, new speeches were written, new questions were posed. Our team performed brilliantly in what proved to be a very close competition.

The judges’ feedback for our St Mary’s team featuring phrases such as ‘an ideal chairperson’, ‘brilliant, relevant and interesting questions’ and ‘top marks on delivery of the speech’!

Since then, the Debating Team has thrown themselves into a range of opportunities, displaying leadership skills, confidence and innovation. From chairing an international Zoom conference with pupils and teachers at a fellow Mary Ward school in Nepal (as part of International Women’s Day) to planning fun introductory debating sessions with Year 6 pupils, our debaters have proven how far-reaching and versatile their oracy skills truly are.

  • Read Imogen H.-H.’s speech on whether we have a moral obligation to disobey unjust laws, delivered at the regional final of ESU’s public speaking competition.
  • Read Freya L.’s speech on whether we should sell arms to countries with a poor human rights record, delivered at the ESU’s public speaking competition 

Throughout this year, our team members have not only displayed perseverance and resilience but have also proven themselves to be innovative and willing to take risks.

In their engagement with remote club sessions during lockdown, their attendance at online competitions, and their participation in a cultural exchange with pupils overseas, they have risen to every challenge faced and opportunity given, always open to learning lessons along the way. Perhaps most impressively, the girls are now confidently in the habit of giving and receiving constructive advice and feedback, thereby fostering a spirit of collaboration and a thirst for improvement and excellence at all times. 

“Debating builds confidence that will last a lifetime!" Isabelle M.-S. (Year 11)

Ms Cottingham

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