Senior Debating Society: Spring/Summer Update
The spring term was a busy one for the Senior Debating Society. At the end of January, three of our Year 11 members took part in the English Speaking Union Churchill Public Speaking Competition, which took place at Lingfield Notre Dame School. Courtney Vanstaden took on the difficult role of Chairperson, Lucy Weatherley was our Questioner, and Francesca Verrechia had to step in at the last minute to be the Speaker, due to student illness. All three students were praised for their very competent performance, and Year 10 gained some useful tips for next year on how to progress to the next round.
In February, Adrian Man and Maeesha Rabbani represented Bennett at the Oxford Schools’ Debating Competition, which was held at Sevenoaks School. Oxford is a very challenging competition, with two teams on each side of the table and two short-preparation debates, meaning that students are only given the debate motion 15 minutes beforehand. Adrian and Maeesha had to grapple with topics on Trident and banning strikes in times of national disaster. They put forward strong arguments and fulfilled their roles on the table appropriately; again, they gained valuable feedback and the experience should improve their confidence for when they compete again next year.
As is now traditional, after the national competition season ends, Senior Debaters compete with each other for the Bennett Debating Cup. This involves pairings from across the year groups preparing together for a round of ESU-style debates. The teams are scored using the ESU marking criteria and the highest-scoring teams progress to a grand final. In this year’s final, Otto Odone and Tao Peacock proposed the motion “This House would ban cosmetic surgery”, with Sophie Lord and Courtney Vanstaden opposing. Both teams did a brilliant job, with Otto and Tao narrowly beating Sophie and Courtney to take the trophy this year. Congratulations to Otto and Tao for a very impressive performance.
As usual, the autumn term was a busy one for Senior Debating Society. With a substantial number of new recruits to the Society, a key focus this year is on giving the students as much training and experience in debating as possible, so that they are able to achieve success in competitions in the future.
In November, Lily Catling (Year 13) and Gus Malone (Y12) competed against students from Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School, Tonbridge School and Tonbridge Grammar School, in the first round of the English Speaking Union Schools’ Mace, which took place at TWGGS. Lily and Gus proposed the motion, ‘This House supports salary caps in professional sports’. Cheered on by several other members of the Bennett Senior Debating Society who went along to support and learn from observing the competition and judges’ feedback, Lily and Gus both made an impressive debut in national competitive debating. They were praised by the judges for their confident speeches and for interacting fully with the debate by offering and responding to plenty of Points of Information. On this occasion, Tonbridge School and TWGGS were selected to go through to the next round, but the Bennett team gained valuable experience and constructive feedback, as well as increasing their confidence, hopefully laying the ground for future successes…
Another valuable opportunity for the students arose when Bennett Senior Debating Society members were invited to attend a meeting with the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP. The meeting took place at TWGGS in December and gave students the chance to quiz the Tunbridge Wells MP and now Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, on issues from Brexit to climate change, which they did with enthusiasm!
The Senior Debaters are now busy preparing to take part in two more national competitions: ESU Churchill Public Speaking Competition in January, and Oxford Schools’ Debating Competition in February.
ESU Schools’ Mace: South-East Regional Final
On 2nd March, the South-East Regional Final of this prestigious national competition took place at Judd School. Josh Hearn and Leah Bonello represented Bennett, opposing the motion ‘This House would criminalise the payment of ransoms’. The other schools that made it through to this stage were TWGGS, Ashford School, Brighton College, King’s Canterbury and Simon Langton School for Boys. Josh and Leah were really impressive on the night, narrowly missing out on a place in the next round to TWGGS and Brighton College. The main judge remarked that it was probably the highest standard of debating in a regional final that he had judged in the last two years. This was the furthest Bennett has ever progressed in the competition, and I am thrilled that Josh and Leah enjoyed this level of success; it was thoroughly deserved.
EU Referendum Debate
On 19th April, members of the Senior Debating Society locked horns over probably one of the most pressing issues of our generation: whether or not Britain should leave the EU. The debate took place in the Sixth Form Centre and was well-attended by sixth formers and staff. Mark Raynor and Suzan Altinpar proposed leaving the EU, while Josh Hearn and Oliver Mumford represented the ‘remain’ side. An audience vote was held after the debate: interestingly, 33 students voted to remain, 13 to leave and 6 were ‘unsure’. It remains to be seen whether this balance of opinion will be reflected in the national result…
Bennett Debating Competition
Throughout April and May, we held the annual Bennett Debating Competition, in which all members of Senior Debating Society compete against each other in a series of lunch-time debates. Each team is judged according to ESU Schools’ Mace criteria, and the team with the highest marks overall is declared the winner, and their names are engraved on the Bennett Debating Cup. This year that honour went to Josh Hearn and Suzan Altinpaar.
Goodbye to Year 13
It is always difficult to say goodbye to our Year 13 members when study leave begins. This year, however, it is particularly sad, as we are losing one of the most dedicated, talented groups of students that we have ever had in the Society. Particular thanks must go to Josh Hearn and Leah Bonello who, as Co-Presidents of the Senior Debating Society, not only led Bennett to great success in competitions, but have also been a great help to me in running the Society over the last year. I wish them, and all our Year 13 members, great success and happiness in the future.
Autumn Term 2015
The new academic year has been a very fruitful one for the Senior Debating Society. The policy of recruiting students in Year 10 and ‘training them up’ so that they are really experienced by the time they are in the sixth form is starting to have a real impact. Our current Year 12 and 13 pupils are now in their third year of formal, competitive debating, and their level of achievement is demonstrated by the very exciting result in the first round of the ESU Schools’ Mace in November – Joshua Hearn and Leah Bonello secured a place for Bennett in the second round, against stiff opposition from prestigious local schools. For the full report, please click on the link below:
Training Workshops – This autumn, Bennett hosted two training workshops, welcoming several local schools to come and take part in training given by experts from the ESU and the Oxford Union. These were very successful evenings, which really helped equip students for the challenges of the competitions.
ESU Schools’ Mace – Having progressed through the first round, Josh and Leah will take place in the second round of the competition in the new year.
ESU Public Speaking Competition – A team of Key Stage 4 students are continuing to train to compete in the first round of the English Speaking Union Public Speaking Competition, which will take place on 9th February 2016 at Cranbrook School.
Oxford Union – Two teams of sixth form students are preparing to compete in the first round of the Oxford Schools’ Debating Competition, which will take place on 27th January 2016, at Cranbrook School.