On Thursday, ten schools gathered to compete in the second annual Balloon Debate Competition for First and Second Form pupils (Years 7 and 8), organised by the Oundle Debating Society in conjunction with the Open Learning Partnership.

The debating format requires each competitor to give a speech in character, justifying why they should remain in a sinking balloon. The theme for this year’s debate was Explorers, and the audience were lucky enough to hear a series of marvellous speeches from a wide range of intrepid and notable characters.

Oundle School fielded two excellent candidates, Leo Marsden (Sco) as James Beckwourth and Benjamin Young (Sco) as Junko Tabei. 

The twenty pupils were narrowed down to three worthy finalists, by audience vote. Sir Ranulph Feinnes, Ellen MacArthur and Ferdinand Magellan (also known as George Sloan of Catmose College, Shanaya Jasinarachchi of Spratton Hall and Oliver Bennett of Prince William School respectively) extolled the virtues of their explorers, attempting to persuade the adjudicators with impressive rhetorical flourishes and charismatic performances.

In the end, the adjudicators, James Scruby of the English Speaking Union and Helen Schofield, Head of Copthill School, selected Ellen MacArthur as the winning candidate, meaning Shanaya Jasinarachchi took the balloon shaped trophy home. The audience vote went to Oliver Bennett of PWS.

The quality of performances and the content of the speeches were most remarkable across the board. It was very clear that each pupil had worked extremely hard to create a lively, engaging and informative speech.