While school debating across the country and within the School went online this year due to pandemic restrictions, preparation to address the key questions of our times remained as busy, thorough and sharp as ever.

Just before Half Term, Oundle entered four debaters in a field of six other schools at the 2021 Debating Matters sixth form competition. Spirited performances handled issues of digital privacy, and corporate sponsorship in the arts. Amelie Holtby (Sn) was highly commended in the competition for her “great points and good research”.

At the conclusion of the long-running, hotly contested House Debates, Grafton won the junior debating Mather Cup in a final against Laxton House, addressing the motion: “This House believes that we have too much freedom”.

Three pairs of junior debaters trained with Dr Mackenzie and made their debating debut at the International Cambridge Young Debaters competition held on February 20th. Out of 28 pairs, they gained 6th, 8th and 13th places. Oundle had two speakers ranked in the top ten: Mirabel Agyemang (N) was top competition speaker overall, and Henrietta Newble (N) was 8th. This is a real achievement as these were all novice pairs this year.

Five pairs of Sixth Form parliamentary debaters also participated in Nottingham Schools on February 20th. After four rounds, Amelie Holtby (Sn) and Marc Wang (C) debated through to the Pro Am Final, which they then won opposing the motion “This House supports proportional representation”; a significant achievement for both, and especially for Marc who was competing for the first time this year. From a field of 40 pairs, Oundle also placed in the top ten speakers of the day at 3rd and 6th places respectively.

The English Speaking Mace team of Mary Cummins (Sn), Thomas Caskey (L) and Izzy Horrocks Taylor (L) were successful in the Area Round and so had to work hard over Half Term preparing their fresh case for the Regionals which was held immediately on return to school. They were ultimately beaten, but not before they had offered a fine argument on the concept of the “genius” narrative, contributing to an evening of excellent topical debating within a strong field.

At the English Speaking Union Public Speakers school competition Area Round, Kiara Mashru (L) was questioner of the evening and Noa Anderson (Sn), joining from Dubai, was commended as Best Speaker. The team went on to the Regional Round on March 10th, where Noa delivered a persuasive and powerful piece on the highly topical issue of funding for childrens’ mental health provision. William Caskey questioned the Caistor Grammar speaker, and Eva Morgan (D) chaired the session. While they were not selected to go through to the Finals, Eva was commended for the best chairing of the event.

Oundle Debaters now look forward to competing at the Durham Schools weekend at the end of the Lent Term, and to the completion of the Senior Inter House Humphreys Gavel at the start of the Summer Term.