ESU Schools' Debating - 2016

Armed with several pieces of paper, and a couple of weeks of sitting in 608 trying to decide between ‘Point of Interest’ and ‘Point of Information’, we set out to take on Oundle school over the issue of whether the voting age should be extended to sixteen year olds. As the opposition to the motion (the motion and sides were decided weeks in advance), it was our job to convince everyone that sixteen and seventeen year olds were in no way fit to vote for who gets to run our country. And so off we went, four sixteen and seventeen year olds determined to undermine our own judgement on politics and how our country should be run.

    With Mrs Legrand by our side, Kyle, Amy, Charlotte, and myself stepped into Oundle and were at once taken aback by the grandeur of the site. Whilst not quite the castle that Amy’s phone had promised us, their sports hall was certainly still an impressive affair and even sported a jukebox tucked away in one corner. Whilst we waited for our competition to arrive (we were clearly very intimidating), we looked over the other schools in the running order. Not only were we up first, but we were the only state school in the competition.

    Our hosts were very friendly and, though I never actually got my cup of tea, it wasn’t long before we began to see the other school arriving: armed with folders and tablets, my little notepad suddenly felt very underwhelming. We checked the debate topics once more: Voting at sixteen; cap on sports player’s salaries; legalised euthanasia. No doubt about it: we were definitely up first.

    With the news that two schools had dropped out at the last minute, Oundle - the hosting school - scrambled to make two swing teams to fill in for the teams that hadn't arrived. This hasty preparation should have been easy to spot in their debates, but we were clearly up against the very best.

    With a swing of the gavel, our debate began. Oundle went first and Kyle and myself prepared our notes ready to deliver our counter argument, whilst Amy and Charlotte took notes ready for question time and Mrs Legrand gave front-row support. All too soon Kyle gave me the reassuring look of ‘don’t screw this up’ and it was my turn to speak. The debate itself was remarkable fun: you start by rebuking the other team, then enter into your own argument and try to argue as to why you are right. Each side gets seven minutes to speak in each of the two rounds, and POIs can be raised between the second and sixth minute - assuming you can hear the gavel of course.

    This format repeats for two rounds, giving both debaters the chance to speak. Kyle went second for our side, and delved into some fascinating points on the brain development of teenagers (I won’t try to explain it here, but simply put the male brain isn’t fully formed until it’s twenty five), as well as taking the opportunity to kindly remind our opposition that Switzerland is in fact very much not in the EU.

    After these two rounds, the floor is allowed to question either side. This was where Charlotte and Amy came into their element. If there were points for conviction of the floor, then we definitely won here.

    Rejuvenated by Amy and Charlotte’s impressive show of intrigue and intellect, we went on to prepare our closing statements. Kyle gave me a motivational speech, in which he encouragingly told me that I was giving the closing statement, and after a final few minutes the debate was drawn to a close.

    The hard work completed, and weeks of preparation brought to fruition, we regained our seats and sat back to watch the next two debates. Enter the star of the ESU Mace debate: Julian. Here was a man who knew how to play the game. The model debater, he knew exactly how to get the floor on his side, and how to keep control in the debate. My notebook was suddenly very useful.

    After watching the final two debates, and taking many notes on how the veterans performed, we were allowed to eat. The spread was most impressive, and contained some rather intriguing, but utterly gorgeous, honey coated mini sausages that were as delightful to eat as they are strange to describe. We then waited for the judges result.

    We were fairly sure as to who we thought would be going through to the final, but clearly the judges were not as they took an impressive twenty minutes to decide on their top two. At last we were called back for the results. I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that we were the only team there that was not from a private school, and that this was our first ever debate. We were awarded an, incredibly close, third place. Thrilled to have done so well, and a little disappointed to have just been edged out of a spot in the next round, we were then given some fantastic advice on how to make sure we get through next time. My notebook was thrilled to get so much usage all at once.

    Pleased with our performance, we found out how to finally get volume on the previously mute Sat-Nav, and headed back to Moulton with talk full of the day’s events (mostly about how impressive Julian had been) and set our sights on next year, and how we were determined to return - stronger than ever.

    The experience was fantastic, and I thoroughly enjoyed both the preparation and the debate itself. The entrants from the other schools were all friendly, welcoming, and engaged in conversation with us on an equal level. Despite being the only state school in the competition, the other students never made us feel out of place, and I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone with an interest in debating or inter-school competitions.