House Debating Competition

On Tuesday 21 March, pupils in the Upper School and Sixth Form took part in the in augural House Debating Competition, taking on challenging and thought-provoking motions to see which house would be crowned the best debaters.

21 March 2023

We were absolutely delighted to welcome The Lord Strathclyde CH PC as judge for our first ever inter-house debating competition. As a former Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Strathclyde’s expertise and knowledge in the art of debating in parliament ensured the adjudication was as entertaining and informative as the debates that preceded it.

Lord Strathclyde and the Galbraith family have strong connections with Downe House, across several generations and it was a great pleasure that the House teams were competing in two categories named in honour of this connection – The Galbraith Cup for Junior Debating and The Galbraith Cup for Senior Debating.

After preliminary rounds, through to the finals of the junior competition were teams from Tedworth, AGS, Holcombe and Aisholt houses, debating the topics:

  • ‘This House Believes that Oscars categories should be gender neutral.’ – Tedworth
  • ‘This House would ban the sale and consumption of meat.’ – Aisholt
  • ‘This House would replace Shakespeare with modern authors in school.’ – AGS
  • ‘This House Believes that Shamima Begum should have her citizenship reinstated.’ – Holcombe

All teams argued with intelligence, clarity and conviction, but Holcombe were the indisputable winners, taking home the Galbraith Cup for Junior Debating.

The senior competition introduced the audience to British Parliamentary debating, which is a format widely used in debating competitions. After the preliminary rounds, it was Aisholt, Tedworth, AGN, and AGS house teams that took on the motion, ‘This House would introduce a statutory requirement age for politicians.’ Again, all the pupils did a tremendous job but the Galbraith Trophy for Senior Debating went to AGN. The team received particular praise for their minimal use of notes, effective Points of Information and rebuttals, and their clarity of argument. Special mention went to Tacita (LVI) who was awarded the prize for Best Debater.

Debating at Downe House

Debating has been taking place at School for many years. Lower Sixth pupils regularly take on the Oxford Schools Debating competition, and more recent initiatives have included the introduction of a Lower School debating competition. Such is the enthusiasm for debating, we have transformed debating in the School with the introduction of a range of superb new opportunities for all pupils to take part in; including workshops with a leading UK debating coach, weekly Junior Debating Club (Remove to Upper Fourth – Years 7-9) and coaching for the Sixth Form, as well as facilitated debates with Radley College and Winchester College. Finally, thank you to Sophia and Amy (UVI) for championing debating at Downe House through the Plowden Society.

The House Debating competition, masterminded by Mrs Reichardt and Mrs Michell, is a welcome addition to the inter-House competition schedule, and was a superb showcase of the incredible talent our pupils have for debating.

We are passionate about expanding the opportunities for all our girls to get involved in debating, and to come along to the weekly clubs and termly workshops with the external coach, and of course, to put themselves forward to take part in the next competition in Lent 2024! The importance of debating cannot be understated. Debating in schools teaches things unlearnable in other ways: not only how to construct an argument, but to listen to the counter argument in order to adapt your argument to be the most compelling. Above all, debating teaches you to think on your feet, to express yourself with clarity and to develop the confidence to speak in public. All of which is terrifying, exhilarating and utterly compelling as a reason to take up debating!”
– Mrs Michell and Mrs Reichardt

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