Bede's Hosts ESU Public Speaking Competition


Towards the end of last term, Bede’s played host to several schools for the first regional heat of the prestigious English Speaking Union Schools Mace Competition.

In a round of intense debates lasting over three hours, our audience were treated to a masterclass in oratory from a dozen highly talented speakers.

The motions, selected beforehand by ESU, were deliberately provocative; should the UK pay reparations to countries affected by slavery? Should non-violent offenders be spared prison sentences to ease crowding in prisons? Do compulsory diversity quotas actually help achieve equality, or lead to a more prejudiced and divided society?

Beginning the afternoon for Bede’s were Camberlot’s James Wriglesworth and Nick Shaw (Dicker House), who put forward an extremely cogent argument against the implementation of diversity quotas at the BBC. Given that one of our judging panel, the broadcast Journalist Jessica Banham, actually worked for BBC Sussex, this was certainly a pertinent topic, and one which had our audience engaged in deep discussion during the interval.

Ardingly and Brighton College locked horns in the second heat and Ardingly’s duo were victorious.

In many respects, the best was reserved until last, with Oliver Marks and Joe Bowler pitted against a very well-prepared team from Moira House, the only female entrants in the competition. The motion? That the UK government should not pay reparations to countries involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.


Moira House put forwards several definitions of a possible reparation, and this made the debate all the more difficult for their opponents from Bede’s.

Against this undeniable disadvantage, the boys produced a very accomplished rhetorical display and rebutting their opponents with real conviction and authority. Oliver Marks’ superb closing address, in which he called for the house to focus on solving the problem of modern slavery, seemed—at first--enough to win. Though the judging panel had to commend the skill and erudition of Oliver and Joe’s argument, they felt that the boys could have addressed the terms set out by their opponents a little more often. Success will surely follow soon!

The first foray into the debating circuit was, results aside, a superb success, with many audience members requesting more debating in the school.

Opponents of Dicker and Camberlot beware. If these debates are anything to go by, a few houses already contain some extremely formidable talent. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!


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