Cambridge Union Schools Debating Competition 2020

Cat, Harriet and Ange

On Saturday the 11th of January Urmston Grammar hosted over a dozen schools in The Cambridge Union Schools Debating Competition, one of the biggest schools debating competitions in the world and possibly the most prestigious. This was the only qualifying round in the north of England this year. Urmston Grammar had four teams competing, Tanaya Khisty and Lottie Heslop from Year 12, Harriet Short and Ange Boli, as well as Anya Williams and Madeleine Storer from Year 11, and Niall Whelan and Alex Olivia from Year 10. With nearly thirty teams competing for only three places, the competition was very tough.  One of our teams – Harriet Short and Ange Boli – made it to the one of the top rooms by the end of the competition; however, they didn’t quite make it to the top three, and so won’t be going forward to the final in the Cambridge Union this year.

Lottie and Tanaya


The motions for the debates were quite diverse: from raising the minimum wage, to the reintroduction of National Service, whether we should imprison violent offenders, and finally the thorny issue


of whether it is right to abolish University Tuition Fees. It was a great day as well as a real challenge for our teams who did very well achieving a number of firsts and seconds. However, Urmston Grammar have a number of other teams competing in the next month in the University of Manchester Schools, The Oxford University Schools, The English Speaking Union Mace, and the English Speaking Union Public Speaking Competitions.

English-Speaking Union Public Speaking Competition – Thursday 16th January at Urmston Grammar School



This is the largest public speaking competition for schools in England and Wales: the English-Speaking Union Public Speaking Competition – and it is a staple of the Urmston Grammar Debating and Public Speaking Programme. With around 400 teams and over a thousand students taking part, the standard as always is high and progressing difficult. Urmston Grammar had two teams in this year’s competition, the regional round of which took place in Urmston Grammar on Thursday the 16th of January.

The first team consisted of Harriet Short as speaker, Ange


Boli as questioner and Joe Read as chairperson, all from Year 11. Our Year 10 team was made up of Nathan Cunningham as speaker, Niall Whelan as questioner and Theo Liddel as chairperson. The different roles allow students to practise and excel in different skill sets; and the competition’s unique format, which pairs the speaker from one school with the chair and questioner of another, encourages quick thinking and relationship building.


This year, Urmston Grammar School did not quite get through to the regional final, but they acquitted themselves well – and Harriet Short from Year 11, speaking on “There is no such thing as old age”, won the ‘Best Speaker Award’.  Also, Nathan Cunningham’s take on “New Year’s Resolutions are Pointless” won a great deal of admiration from the judges as well as the audience, he spoke so engagingly and humorously, showing himself to be a natural public speaker.

Other topics discussed were: “We should stop saying everyone needs body positivity”; “Liberty is more important than security”; “HIV and Aids are serious topics that have drifted from the headlines”; and “Advertisements for alcoholic products should be banned”.


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