Schools’ verbal showdown in council chamber

Holly Turner-Smith, 13, from Lady Margaret School, Fulham, tries her hand at timekeeping during the Hammersmith & Fulham secondary schools’ debating competition.
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Pupils from five borough schools met for a verbal showdown in the council chamber at Hammersmith Town Hall on Thursday.

The borough’s second annual secondary schools’ debating competition, organised by the council, saw young people putting forward their cases on issues ranging from the merits of watching TV compared with reading books to whether the ‘war on terror’ is making terrorism worse. Debating societies have been established at many of the participating schools.

The winners of the borough competition, Lady Margaret School, from Fulham, were presented with a trophy by the mayor, Cllr Charlie Treloggan, after successfully arguing their case against the view that ‘we should be afraid of the United States of America’. The runners up, who supported the motion during the final, were Fulham Cross School.

The Lady Margaret team will compete in a London-wide competition in June, organised by the English-Speaking Union which runs regional and national public speaking competitions. Last year’s Hammersmith & Fulham winners, Sacred Heart High School, came second in the London regional competition.

Cllr Treloggan said: “Encouraging young people to take part in public speaking gives a tremendous boost to their self-confidence and analytical skills. These pupils have all had great fun debating complex and emotive issues and putting forward their best arguments for and against. We hope some of them will go on to use these skills to put forward their views on local services and get involved in community issues and projects.
This is one of a number of initiatives that the council is running with the help of money from the government’s Excellence in Cities programme, which funds a wide range of extra academic and creative opportunities for local pupils.”

The other participating schools were: Henry Compton, Sacred Heart High and Phoenix High. Each school had a team of three speakers, aged 12 to 16, and supporters of up to 15 pupils from each school were invited to cheer their classmates on.
All the teams who took part were given an inscribed gavel to use in school debates and Edith Johnson, 13, from Sacred Heart High School, was given an individual trophy for making the best contribution from the floor.

Pupils taking part in the debating competition were identified as ‘gifted and talented’ through the Excellence in Cities (EiC) programme. The council’s EiC team has organised workshops in schools, to help pupils sharpen their debating skills, as well as supporting the development of school debating societies.

The judges for yesterday’s debating competition included education director, Sandy Adamson, members of the council’s EiC team, a guest from Hounslow Council’s EiC team, and teachers from Hammersmith & Fulham secondary schools who have attended judging training.

Heather Rothwell, the council’s advisory teacher for able pupils, said: “The standard of debate was very high and built on what we achieved last year. We heard very strong arguments on a whole range of issues and points that were presented clearly and coherently.”

February 6, 2005