So how does it work? A motion, or topic, that needs discussed is put forward to the group. There are two teams each taking a different side of the motion. To make it interesting there are four teams in the final. Both members of the team have to stand up and present their part of the argument. The debate starts with the first proposition speaker, the first opposition, second proposition speaker and second opposition and so on. Each having 6 minutes, with questions allowed to be asked by the other team after the first minute but before the last minute. The floor, consisting all pupils from various schools, is then allowed 15 minutes to raise issues they have heard from both teams. The teams do not have to respond but occasionally do. Thereafter the one member from each team provides their reply speech commencing with the opposition: each having 3 minutes with no questioning being allowed by the opposing team. Once the debate has finished a panel of three judges, four in the final, decide the winner.
The motion in the final was “This House would restrict media coverage of terrorist attacks”. As you can imagine this motion does have strong arguments for and against, with the main argument against being the removal of individuals right to Freedom of Information and what information should be restricted. On the converse, restricting media coverage to a single source, as suggested by one team, would prevent speculation about events and provide for a clear and accurate account of what actually happened. What made it particularly interesting was hearing different arguments and styles of presentation from two proposition and opposition teams. Each having their own specific points to raise.
What stood out to me was the confidence, ability to formulate convincing arguments, provide effective counter-arguments, relating to recent and current affairs and superb team working skills displayed by all the pupils. As noted by the Deputy Presiding Officer the confidence the pupils showed was outstanding. She remembered her first speech where her legs were shaking and congratulated all the pupils for their hard work in preparing and delivering their propositions and oppositions.
William Rennie MSP, remarked on the superb debating skills and the hard task the judges had on deciding who the winner would be. I certainty did not envy their task, as it was too close to call.
The winning team last night was pupils from Madras College, St Andrews. The school will receive £1,000, a trophy to be held for one year and the winning team and runner-up each share £500 of books from Hodder Gibson. Well done to all.