Debating Matters

In September 2010 the Debating Society at BRGS was reawakened after a 33 year gap since its last meeting.

At the last debate in October 1977, the motion to be discussed was:
“This House believes that the Government’s policy towards comprehensive education is misguided.”

Other debates during the 1970s included:

“This House believes punk rock is the symptom of a corrupt society.”
“This House believes that a Lancashire Lass has no need of Women’s Lib.”
“This House believes that we have never had it so bad.”
“This House believes that all sensible Britons should vote “no” in the referendum and take us out of the European Economic Community.”

The Debating Society also staged balloon debates and on the 20th May 1977 Elvis Presley won the debate with Spike Milligan, Jimmy Carter and Margaret Thatcher all being thrown out of the balloon!

Since it was reformed by a number of eager sixth form students, the debates have included:

“This House believes that the best war on terror is in fact the war on poverty.”
“This House believes that it was right for the tax payer to have paid for the Pope’s visit.”
“This House believes that there should be complete freedom of speech in the arts.”
“This House believes that it is right for students who benefit from a university education to pay for this privilege through tuition fees.”

Two balloon debates have also been held. The first consisted of God, The Queen, Freddie Mercury, Nick Griffin and a Chilean miner with a God seemingly representing all faiths winning the debate. The second had a Christmas theme with Rudolph, Jesus, an elf, the Grinch and St. Nick all fighting for survival but with the hard-working elf winning the day!

Cambridge University Schools’ Debating Competition

A minibus of enthusiastic debaters attended a debating workshop in Liverpool to gain a basic understanding of the principles of British Parliamentary Debating.

Six students then entered the Cambridge Competition: Francis Cullen & Camille Cittanova, Toby Craddock & Emily Tanner and Chrissy McMahon & Catriona Watson.

All performed brilliantly in their first competitive debate at Manchester Grammar School with Chrissy and Catriona winning their round to reach the regional finals against teams from across the North.

This was a fantastic achievement given that they had only spent a couple of months practising debating!

The regional finals were held at the Grammar School at Leeds on the 26th January and Catriona & Chrissy competed against teams from Silverdale School, Newcastle Royal Grammar School and Bradford Grammar School.

They had 15 minutes to prepare for the first debate on whether prisoners should have the vote and then they had a further 15 minutes before their second debate on whether sports teams should be punished for the behaviour of their fans.

Catriona & Chrissy put forward some passionate and well-argued points performing against veteran debaters many of whom had been debating since Year 7.

The girls just missed the top spot with Silverdale School winning and progressing to the national finals in Cambridge.

Manchester National Schools’ Competition

The following teams entered an intensive day-long competition run by Manchester University’s Debating Society on Saturday 5th February: Toby Craddock & Emily Tanner (Year 13); Camille Cittanova (Year 13) & Jordan Protano-Byrne (Year 12) and Catriona Watson & Laura-Beth Thomson (Year 13). Each team had four unprepared debates on the following:

- This House would bring back Grammar Schools
- This House would ban all research into artificial intelligence for armed military drones
- This house believes that the State should not purchase art work that ordinary people cannot distinguish from the work of children
- This House believes that Judges should be elected by the general public

Most competitors were obviously seasoned professionals and knew each other on the debating circuit. Teams had travelled from across the country with representation from the City of London School and St. Paul’s School, London. In total forty-eight teams participated (192 students) and our teams performed admirably. The winning team was St. Paul’s A team which accumulated 622 speaker points.

The total speaker points received by our teams were as follows:

- Bacup A team of Laura-Beth and Catriona accumulated 567 points
- Bacup B team of Toby and Emily gained 557 points
- Bacup C team of Camille and Jordan gained 549 points.

Camille and Jordan performed consistently well in what was Jordan’s first experience of debating! Emily and Toby had an excellent win in the debate focusing on the arts and after a poor judging decision in the previous round, Catriona and Laura-Beth fought back to win the debate on artificial intelligence. Congratulations to all those involved!

Links: - Cambridge University Schools Competition - Oxford University Schools Competition - Manchester Debating Union - British Debating Society - English Speaking Union - guide to British Parliamentary Debating