1 February 2018

A team from Birkenhead Sixth Form College is through to the regional finals of the biggest debating competition for schools in England, after beating rivals from the Liverpool area in the local heats.

Students Hannah Banton and Harry Gorman came up against Merchant Taylors’ Boys’ School in the English Speaking Union (ESU) Schools’ Mace debating competition, and the second round victory against the Crosby-based independent school now puts the College team just one step away from the national finals.

Teams in the ESU debating contest are allocated a topic and their stance on which to argue a motion. The speakers are then judged on how well they researched, presented and debated their assigned subject matter.

Hannah and Harry were allotted to argue for a motion to ban the use of software to digitally enhance a person’s appearance in the media.

First year Harry began proceedings with a thought-provoking yet amusing speech on the matter, focusing on regulations within other countries that have successfully begun to watermark digitally-enhanced images, but argued that even this was not enough. He compared the scrutiny under which we put the words we read and the onus we place on them to be truthful with the lack of such ‘truth’ in the images we see.

Harry in action

The opposition’s strong response was then countered by second year Hannah, who articulately explained the psychological harm that these ‘perfect’ images have on people’s own body perceptions, particularly in children and teenagers, and backed up her points with well researched facts and figures.

After fielding questions from the floor and defending against probing attacks from their opponents, the team finished with Harry’s charismatic summary, which even amused their counterparts from Merchant Taylors’.

Hannah articulately defends the team's motion

The debate was ably chaired for the evening by first year Jack Fitzpatrick with fellow student Lee Turpin and Politics teacher Jane Cavanagh helping with timing.

Teacher Jane, who runs the College’s Debate Club and helped Hannah and Harry prepare for their performances, said: “I'm so proud of Hannah and Harry’s performance. They were up against a formidable team from Merchant Taylors’ School in the debate over a challenging moral subject. Harry made a very animated and humorous proposition and summary speech, which required him being able to respond quickly to audience questions and points made from the opposition team. Hannah did a brilliant job of making a rebuttal of the first opposition speaker’s main points and to develop Harry’s argument.

"All of the teams were extremely impressive and it was a joy to watch young people debating issues so masterfully. The judges took a long time to deliberate so our team did fantastically well to be selected to go through to the regional final. We are looking forward to moving on to the next level of the competition.”