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Congratulations to TGS debaters who are National Champions

Tonbridge Grammar School have won the oldest and one of the most prestigious debating tournaments in the country.

On Monday 28 March Anna, Holly, Elo, Ellen (Y11) and Izzy (Y12) attended the National Final of the English Speaking Union’s Mace Debating Competition. They had won three previous fiercely contested rounds, making them the representatives of the South East Region.

The event was held at Dartmouth House, Mayfair and the first debate of the day was on the motion “This house would build homes on the green belt.” TGS were proposing against the motion. Ellen opened the debate outlining how the government should focus on building on brown-field sites initially and then developing eco-friendly housing on the green belt, with 50% reserved for social housing. Holly and Anna developed the case, whilst incorporating rebuttal from a well-prepared opposition.

Only one school of the six teams in their room could proceed to the final debate. Not only would TGS need to win their debate; they needed to deliver the best out of the six debating performances.

The team had lunch in the courtyard of Dartmouth House whilst the judges deliberated.

After an hour, the results were in. From the first semi-final, Manchester Grammar School (MGS) were through; they would go through to the final to propose the motion “This house believes that sports clubs should be majority owned by their fans”. The judges from TGS’ room said that the debates had been of an exceptional quality and the decision of which team to go through had been incredibly difficult. Nonetheless, TGS were selected! They would oppose the motion.

A focused hour ensued in which Izzy, Elo and Anna tweaked finishing touches to their prepared speeches for the debate. Of 280 teams who joined in the start of the year, TGS were in the final two.

MGS started the final debate with a clear mechanism; no individual fan could own more than 0.1% of the club. They provided an impressive array of arguments as to why fans were the best people to promote the direction of teams. Izzy begun the opposition case by persuasively outlining why fan ownership is financially detrimental to both clubs and fans. Anna persuasively defended these points and elucidated with some effective examples.

A unique format of the Mace competition is the involvement of audience questions. As all the teams had prepared for the final, there were a broad range of points made to both the finalists. To close the debate, Elo summarised the opposition's case whilst deftly incorporating responses to the audience questions.

By the end of the debate both teams were neck and neck. The judges deliberated for over half an hour before giving tremendous detail in their feedback. The chair of judges, Sebastian Isaac QC, commended both teams for their performances and gave some invaluable feedback on the effective use of Points of Information.

Finally, the result was given: TGS were the winners, making them the National Champions!

You can watch the Grand Final here: 

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I thought the two teams today were absolutely fantastic. I was really impressed and I was so happy that these young people have come out of what has obviously been an incredibly hard two years, often not being in school, and that they’re debating at a better standard than I’ve ever seen. Congratulations to all of them for now, for their future debating and for what will clearly be incredibly successful lives and careers. 

Sebastian Isaac QC, guest chair of the judges

This whole experience with the ESU Mace competition has been the highlight of my year. I have had so much fun working with my friends, exploring ideas, and learning so much about the skill of debating. The fact that we were one of the youngest and least experienced teams and had never entered the competition before makes our success even more exciting. I could never have expected this, and I am so proud of our team and thankful to Mr Noel for this incredible opportunity!

Holly, Year 11

The TGS Debating Society meets at 13.15 every Thursday in room 33 for Years 10-13. There is also the Junior Debating Society which meets on Monday lunchtimes in Room 1.

Image credit: English-Speaking Union/David Harrison