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Nottingham Schools Debating Competition

Academic Other

During February ten Trent College students from Years 11, 12 and 13 participated in the Nottingham Schools Debating Competition, held in the Sir Clive Granger building at Nottingham University. Izzy Avery-Phipps, Emma Smart, Dominic Kalantary, Peter Nathanail, Becky Downs, Laura Fessey, Daniel Tong, Daniel Miller, Finley Willits and Eliot Osbourne formed Trent’s five teams, and all participated in four debates in the British Parliamentary style, with each speaker making a 5 minute speech in support of or against the motion under debate. 

The British Parliamentary debate format dictates that students, working in pairs, must prepare their speeches in just 15 minutes, using only printed materials (No Googling permitted!). Each pair is allocated a position, meaning that often students must debate motions from the opposite side to their personal opinion. The motions on Saturday were varied, from “This house would impose very high taxes on the rich, even when doing so would not increase tax revenues” to “This house would introduce and enforce equal paid parental leave for both parents”.

All teams performed exceptionally well, especially given that for six out of the ten debaters who took part it was their first ever debating competition. Most pupils did have some experience of the British Parliamentary debating format, having participated in the weekly debates run by Dr Johnson during Monday lunchtime, but for Senior Prefect Dominic Kalantary this competition represented his first ever experience of the format. Dominic said “I can’t attend the sessions that Dr Johnson runs on Mondays because I am on duty, so today was my first time debating in this format. Although it took me a bit of time to get my head round it, I really enjoyed the day and I think we did really well. Having to prepare a speech in just 15 minutes really focuses the mind, and a good level of general knowledge is essential, as is an aptitude for public speaking.” The final round was particularly exciting, with Izzy and Emma and Dominic and Peter both winning in their respective rooms, debating the motion “This house would financially compensate people who leave education without employable qualifications”.

This win sent both teams to the top of the novice table, novices being students in their first year of competitive debating, and also gave them both a place in the novice final. This was completely unexpected, but both teams rose to the challenge tremendously well, preparing to debate against each other and two other schools. The motion for the final was “This house would ban unpaid internships”. Emma and Izzy were in support of this motion whilst Peter and Dominic had to oppose it. Peter said “As this is only my second ever debating competition I was quite surprised to get into the novice final, especially as the second best novice team in the whole debate. I really enjoyed the whole day, and I know that my debating ability has greatly improved as a result of my participation. I am sure that I will keep debating at University next year.”

After an exciting and competitive final, the two Trent teams shook the hands of their adversaries and waited for the results. Unfortunately neither team won the final, but according to the Chief Adjudicator all teams had performed exceptionally and every team had been considered for the win. Trent did not leave empty handed however, as Peter Nathanail, Izzy Avery-Phipps and Emma Smart were awarded the 5th, 3rd and 1st Novice speakers respectively. As Emma returned from claiming her prize for being the top novice speaker of the whole debate she said “Having only joined the Debating Society in September, it came as a surprise to me just how fun and rewarding debating competitions could be; I would recommend it to anyone. I'd like to thank Dr Johnson, the other Trent College participants and, of course, my amazing debating partner Izzy Avery-Phipps.”

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