Year 11 students from Ely College, Impington Village College, Bottisham Village College and Linton Village College attended the final of a debating competition hosted and organised by Lucy Frazer MP, in a Committee Chamber in Parliament.
The competition was the culmination of inter-school rounds completed this Autumn term, and two finalists from each school were put through to the final. Students were arguing for and against the following motion: “This house would make voting compulsory”, and both the group and individual winners were judged by Lord Daniel Finkelstein, former Executive Editor of The Times and member of the House of Lords.
Arguing for the motion were students Kieran Chapman, Ruby King, Surena Pahlevan and Beth Rands; and in opposition Ed McCann, Mila Otteranger, Isabella Reynolds and Ellie Staines. Some outstanding arguments were made on both sides of the debate, with citations from the Australian voting system where voting is currently compulsory; the importance of teaching politics in schools so that voters of all ages can make more informed decisions; the influence of the media and its effect on voters’ decisions; the cost of criminalising non-voters; and the value of civil liberties.
The opposition, arguing against the introduction of compulsory voting, won the overall debate. Isabella Reynolds from Impington Village College was awarded the individual prize for best argument, with Ruby King of Bottisham Village College in second place, and Ellie Staines of Ely College in third place.
Marshall Aerospace, who sponsored an earlier debating competition in partnership with Ms Frazer and the charity Debate Mate, were also in attendance. Chris Owen, the Group Business Manager of Marshall, commented that: “The students were very impressive, on par with industry speakers, their delivery was both composed and engaging.”
Lucy Frazer, MP for South East Cambridgeshire, said: “I am so pleased to see such a talented group of students in the final of my annual debating competition, held in Parliament. We heard excellent arguments from all the students, who delivered their speeches very well in the chamber, and some brilliant interventions from the floor too. Congratulations to Isabella, the overall winner, and the opposition for winning their argument. The competition would not have been possible without huge support from the teachers, and each student was a great representative of their school. I hope to see the continuation of debating in Cambridgeshire schools for many years to come.”
Lord Finkelstein said: “It was such a privilege to judge these wonderfully talented students, and it was extremely hard to choose an overall winner as the standard was so high! The winning argument for me was Isabella Reynolds, with Ruby King and Ellie Staines in second and third place respectively. I am very impressed that we have young students engaging with politics and current affairs at this age, and Lucy’s debating competition was an ideal way to help encourage students into public speaking, an essential tool for later life.”