Debating at Wycombe Abbey

Debating has become a very popular extra-curricular pursuit at Wycombe Abbey, with our weekly Monday training sessions now needing to spread across several rooms to fit everyone in! Pupils are learning to argue a motion from any side of the debate, whether they personally agree with it or not. Skills-based sessions focus on developing key competencies such as point-generation, signposting, and rebuttal, whilst practice debates give pupils a chance to bring this all together. Regardless of the focus of a session, priority is put on everyone getting a chance to stand up, take the floor, and speak in front of others.

It is no secret that speaking to an audience for the first time can be very intimidating. Junior Debating is a dedicated session for UIII, in which pupils can build up their confidence speaking in front of others, whilst also gaining a grounding in all the core competencies before they join the senior sessions. We are excited to be expanding our provision in the coming term to introduce a dedicated session for Sixth Form and more advanced debaters.

An exciting part of debating is taking part in the many competitions on the UK school debating circuit. The type of competition we most frequently enter follows the British Parliamentary style. Debaters compete in teams of two and for each debate are assigned a role to play: proposition or opposition; opening or closing half. The motion is released 15 minutes before the debate begins, meaning there is very limited time to prepare for the five-minute speeches each debater must give advocating their side. To make things even more challenging, teams are not allowed to access any resources in this time beyond their own brains!

This term, we entered the LSE Juniors (19 November) and LSE Seniors (20 November) competitions; run by the London School of Economics SU Debating Society. Each competition was a full day of debating, consisting of four rounds and a final. Teams debated motions on topics as varied as whether proselytization should be permissible, whether fiction should always be published anonymously, and whether the payment of ransoms should be prohibited.

All our debaters did themselves proud, persevering throughout a long day and significantly developing their skills. We were delighted to see several successes recognised. In LSE Juniors, Yvonne (LIV) broke through to the Gold Final, placing in the top four teams, whilst Maya (LV) and Priyasha (LV) ranked joint 10th best speakers in the competition. In LSE Seniors, Neda (LV) and Celina (LV) emerged victorious as Novice Champions. Well done to all our competitors! We look forward to seeing many more pupils compete over the coming terms.

Mr Alec Howells
Deputy Head of Lower School (UIII – LIV), Teacher of Computer Science and Religious Studies

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