Debaters demonstrate their powers of persuasion

Lockdown hasn’t been able to prevent High School of Dundee debaters from sharpening their powers of persuasion and proving their mettle in competition.

Debaters demonstrate their powers of persuasion

Throughout this session, debating at the School has continued as a lunchtime activity. And with many of the annual external tournaments also continuing to take place in an online capacity, our debaters have been able to gain plenty of experience and no small measure of success!

During the autumn term Caitlin Cowie and Ruby McIntee reached the final of the Northern Junior Debating Competition run by RGS Newcastle, while Dominic Westwood and David Logan made it through to the semi-final of the Doxbridge international student tournament comprising 162 teams, run by former pupil Steven Roy.

In November, Finlay Thomas and Scott Xu proved they were a force to be reckoned with by winning the Silver final in Edinburgh University’s Juniors competition.

At the end of February, Zara Taylor and Ruby McIntee took part in the Scottish round of the International Competition for Young Debaters, run this year by the Cambridge Union, and qualified to compete at the UK Finals Day which will take place in May.

At Edinburgh University’s Schools tournament in March, Dominic Westwood and David Logan reached the Gold final, while the Silver final was won by the B team of Ksenia Kapelyukh and Hamish Doig. Speaking in his very first debating competition, Hamish also topped the Novice tab (final ranking of debaters), while in round 2 Ksenia scored the highest individual mark in the whole tournament!

The following week, at St Andrews University’s Schools competition, Ksenia was placed 4th speaker. On the same day, Dominic and David took part in Oxford Schools Finals Day, for which they had qualified at the start of the month. With the tournament moving online, schools from all over the world logged in to compete, with a number of experienced international debaters among the participants. However the HSD duo held their own, finishing a very creditable 23rd out of 132 teams.

Competitive senior debating traditionally reaches its conclusion at the end of the spring term, with Durham Schools the last of the major UK competitions. And, with some impressive performances, our debaters signed off for the year in style!

The online format had enabled the contest to expand from its usual cap of around 100 teams to 132, including a number of internationals from India, Canada, Greece and even Vietnam. The HSD teams were Dominic and David, and Georgia Douglas and Ruby, who is still only in F3 and was competing in her first senior tournament. She and Georgia finished a very respectable 24th on tab.

After five in-rounds, Dominic and David had accumulated 13 out of 15 team points and broke (qualified for the next stage) 3rd behind two teams from Eton. After putting out one England international in round 5, and another in the quarter, their impressive march was halted only at the semi-final stage by the tab-topping Eton team who went on to win. On the final tab, out of 264 speakers, Dominic finished 8th equal, David was 19th equal and Georgia was 34th equal.

High School of Dundee senior debating coach Irene McGrath said, “Even via a laptop screen it was both inspiring and hugely exciting to watch our talented and dedicated young people compete so successfully at the top national level, including beating teams from schools such as Westminster, Dulwich and St Paul’s Girls’. They turned in a phenomenal performance and I am very proud of all four pupils.

“Heroic efforts on the part of computer-literate debaters across the world have in a very short time enabled online competitions to be run smoothly, affording our pupils continuing opportunities to participate in and learn from this demanding but very worthwhile activity.”