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FREEDOM OF SPEECH: DO WE NEED IT?

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Highgate has academic partnerships with 37 secondary and eight primary schools in our neighbouring boroughs, and events which aim to promote collaborative thinking between students tackling challenges in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Maths) and humanities subjects are frequently hosted at Highgate.

Over the course of this academic year, Miss Myttas-Perris (TL 2011) has been delivering weekly debating sessions at Grafton Primary School, St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Brookfield Primary School and St Michael’s Primary School.

These sessions aim to equip pupils with the necessary practical skills and confidence to enable them to argue persuasively and effectively.

After a highly successful competition at the beginning of February, 150 pupils and their teachers and parents were invited back to participate in a debating tournament which took place on the afternoon of Thursday 23 March.

The competition saw eight teams enter into the first round, for which the motion was ‘This House Believes that it should be illegal for the media to intrude into the lives of public figures’. Pupils had been given this motion in advance and their intensive research yielded some interesting and challenging concepts. The judges, all Highgate School staff, all commented on how difficult it was to choose a winner.

As the competition moved on to the second round, the tension was palpable as each winning team knew that they were potentially one win away from the final. The next set of debates would challenge not only the pupils’ debating prowess, but also their research and teamwork skills as they were given an unseen motion. In just 15 minutes, teams put together fascinating arguments proposing and opposing the motion: ‘This House Believes that batman and superman are misleading idols’.

All the teams did exceptionally well, and the final scores were very close; in some cases teams were separated by a sing point.

The final came down to the two teams that had won both their previous debates: St Michael’s Marx class and St Michael’s Orwell class. These pupils were given 20 minutes to prepare another unseen motion: ‘This House Believes that there should be no limits to freedom of speech’. Both the arguments laid out by the debaters and the questions asked by the audience were well constructed, thoughtful and highly topical and the evening’s judge, Mr Catherwood was thoroughly impressed with the calibre on show. After a tight adjudication, the inaugural Highgate Chrysalis Debating Cup was given to St Michael’s Marx Team.

Throughout the competition, all the judges praised the confidence and eloquence of the pupils, as well as their ability to take on the challenges of the day with verve and enthusiasm. All the pupils the pupils that have taken part in the debating clubs this year should be immensely proud of their progress.

 

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