A Win For Whitley at the Warwick University Debating Society!

This Monday saw Warwick University Debating Society and their External Affairs team collaborate to put on a EU Referendum Schools Debating event. The event was inundated with bookings and accepted 28 teams of year 7-10 students from 14 schools. The schools were mostly local to Warwick, and included one of our academies, Whitley Academy, who won the competition!

Warwick University and RSA Academies have been working in partnership for over two years with the schools seeing the benefits of the exciting range of Widening Participation outreach activities that Warwick have to offer. Students from across the Family of Academies are taking part in Sutton Scholars, Unitracks and Pathways to Law, amongst other programmes and events.

Here’s a guest blog from Amy Pitham, Year 7 Student Reporter at Whitley Academy.

It was 8:20am Monday morning of 20th June 2016. Whitley Academy was due to compete in the Schools competition of the Warwick University Debating Society.

It rained a lot but we got onto the school mini-bus on time, eagerly and excited. We didn’t know what was going to happen, would we win or would we lose?

For your information today was ‘Solstice Day’. In a way it was the longest day of the year and it was raining hard! Very typical English weather but it became sunny later on.

We arrived at the Warwick Arts Centre around 9:10am, getting a bit lost but managing to find our way around to the Social Sciences Campus. Students arrived from different places around the West Midlands. We were shown into one of the Lecture Halls. Down the corridor there were plenty of nice biscuits cakes, tea and coffee for us to grab before the start of the day.

At 9:30am, we got a welcome speech from Professor Kimberley Scharf. She is one of the Professors of Economics of the University. She told us she had to be in London in the afternoon. She was very funny and we enjoyed her short speech a lot. She mentioned the fact there might be a debate for teachers and she did not want any physical punches if the debate became very heated! She also thanked her staff who helped organise the event. Quite a number of the organisers were her students from Economics.

The main event organisers included Eleanor, Craig, Katy, Rosie and Felix. They wore black jackets with the words WDS (Warwick Debating Society)  at the back. It was quite easy to recognise them whilst many people were around.

We were then told about the proceedings of the day. There were three rounds (or motions) for each team. The fourth round, also the final, would be in the Lecture Hall.

All of the groups were mixed up and we, the Year 7, would compete with students of Years 8, 9 and 10! It would be a very interesting experience for all of us.

We had only 15 minutes for the preparation, not including moving into different rooms around the Social Sciences Department. Time ran fast.

Each school had two teams and there were two students in each team.

Back in school we already spent time to get used to the British Parliament Debating style. Specifically there were four teams in each round:

  • Opening government
  • Opening opposition
  • Closing government
  • Closing opposition

We found this debating style very interesting as you got to listen to everyone around the table in order to build up your argument, raise your opinion or question the other team members.

After a short time of preparation we took turns and presented our points to the judges. There were four judges in each round. The judges took notes very carefully so that they could give us feedback and helped us improve in the following rounds.

At 12:50pm, we finished round 2 and were given time for our lunch.

Everyone was tired. We had one hour for our lunch. We needed more energy ready for the afternoon’s third and final rounds . We were offered a very nice array of food including vegan and vegetarian options which was very kind of the University to consider people’s varied needs.

2:00pm – Time for the third round.

We headed to our rooms then we had fifteen minutes to prepare. In this round the topic was quite tricky: ‘Should we send only one EU football team to the World Cup 2022?’. The topic was much harder than what we expected. All students in our group struggled. However; we managed to deliver the speeches to our best.

We did not win. It was the first time we took part in a wide scale debate. We got to learn as much as we could to improve our debating skills later on.


Names of four teams with the highest scores in the last three rounds were read out. Our Whitley Academy Team A was top scorers with 8 points. They were our Year 10 students: Imogen Foley and Louise Ainge.

All of our little hearts beated fast! We were very nervous for our team mates.

However, as it was the rules of the competition, we had to leave our teammates alone to get on with their own preparation. The topic was: ‘Should Great Britain leave the EU?’ and our team had to argue to agree with the topic. It was very challenging to be on the same side of the topic even though most of us thought about it the other way.

After fifteen minutes of preparation, it was time for the speech delivery.

The lecture hall was packed with school students, teachers, the organisers and judges from many cities further afield. It was very hot and cramped inside the hall. We all went quiet and listened to all four teams.

Do you think their preparation paid off? Yes, it did.

All eight speakers delivered their speeches in a very interactive, friendly but firm way.

Our Whitley Academy Team won the FIRST PLACE against three other schools. Imogen and Louise won special pens for themselves and also a glass trophy for the school, they deserved to win.

On the way home, I remembered Mrs Nguyen’s words: ‘Yes, we can do it! It’s a long journey, but we can do it.’