ICYD Finals Day 2019

Finals Day in the International Competition for Young Debaters, held at the historic Cambridge University Union.

Date published: Mon 13 May 2019   Author: HLH/ADF   Category: Publicity   Share: Share on facebookShare on TwitterShare on MySpaceShare by Email


The first weekend of term brought the final interschool event in a very busy season for our speakers - Finals Day in the International Competition for Young Debaters, held at the historic Cambridge University Union. Building work restricted the number of teams to 44 instead of the usual 60. This meant that, although three TBSHS teams finished in the top eight in their regional round (an unprecedented feat that reflects the strength in depth of debating in Year 10) only one had qualified for Finals Day. About a quarter of the teams competing against Will Worthy & Nabil Shah came from overseas, including Canada, India, the Netherlands, Greece and the Republic of Ireland.

Debating soon got under way, with TBSHS opening the case against the motion “This House Would Ban Developed Countries From Hiring Doctors From Developing Countries”. Nabil laid out a very clear structure for his speech and the division of the case against the motion between himself and Will. He was able to draw on his father’s experience as a doctor recruited from overseas who was able to further his medical expertise in this country. Nabil also explained how the NHS and the British people benefit from hiring overseas doctors. As second speaker, Will put in some very useful rebuttal of the case made by the opening proposers, as well as challenging the restrictive nature of the motion, which he pointed out limits doctors’ opportunities to work wherever they wish to. However, our team’s speeches did overlap somewhat and did not really address the problem of the detrimental effect on developing countries of losing their native doctors. TBSHS gained third place, which seemed fair, although we were surprised that a team from St Paul’s Girls School (who finished fifth overall) were only placed second.







The second round saw a very closely-fought battle against three more independent schools, including one from Ireland. TBSHS had to speak second against the motion “This House Supports the School Strikes for Climate Change”. This time Will was our first speaker to tackle the topic and after a powerful opening statement he pointed out the damage caused to students’ education as well as arguing that seeing young people missing school and stopping commuters getting to work could turn adults against their cause. He went on to attack the Proposition’s case and offer alternative forms of protest that could be adopted instead of school strikes. Summing up the whole debate Nabil identified the main points of clash correctly and made a good job of explaining why he thought the Opposition’s arguments had won the day. Unfortunately, the judge did not agree with him, feeling that our opponents had produced more nuanced and convincing points. She gave us another third place, behind the two Proposition teams, both of whom fielded one speaker who was much stronger than the other.

The lunch break offered our students the chance to recharge their batteries and lick their wounds after two challenging debates where the standard of speaking had been markedly higher than in the regional round. Opening the case for “This House Would Pay Reparations for the Atlantic Slave Trade” allowed them to display their talents better than in the morning debates. Nabil’s speech was very well organised and the arguments he brought forward were clearly expressed. He made a strong case, outlining the horrific treatment of slaves and stressing the moral imperative behind the motion. Will backed him up well, rightly pointing out that his opponents had failed to provide a clear alternative model for atoning for the slave trade. Crucially, he also considered the effects of reparation on future international relations, trade and Britain’s standing in the world. Both our speakers engaged fully with their opponents’ speeches, in particular exposing the flaws in the notion that today’s generation should not have to pay for the wrongs committed by their forebears. The adjudicator pointed out that both sides needed to consider the practicalities of identifying the prospective recipients of reparation and deciding how much they should receive. However, he praised the coherence and power of our case and awarded TBSHS first place.  Although I felt that that we could have introduced a wider range of points and also missed a few opportunities to put our totally demolish our opponents’ arguments, this was undoubtedly Nabil & Will’s best debate and their victory was thoroughly deserved.

In the British Parliamentary debating format, the ‘reward’ for a good result in one round is usually the prospect of stronger opponents in the next and this certainly proved the case in the team’s final debate where they faced two teams representing St Paul’s Girls School and one from Dublin. The motion was “In Countries Where Compulsory Military Service Exists, This House Believes that Feminists Should Advocate for Female Conscription”, with TBSHS drawn to close the case for the motion and the added distinction (disadvantage?) of being the only male speakers! The opening Proposition team produced a sound “equality means equality and you can’t just pick the bits you like” argument, as well as mentioning that the military service can include delivering overseas aid as well as combat. In response, the first St Paul’s Girls team argued that excusing women from compulsory military service gave them increased opportunities for e.g. getting into higher education. They also said that the physical disparities between the genders would lead to conscripted women getting all the non-combat roles and thus reinforce gender stereotypes.

Although Will did not introduce any radically new insights he did extend the earlier arguments from his side by considering the “3 pillars of equality” - rights, opportunity & responsibility (his own invention). He also attacked the Opposition’s arguments, stating that they gave women an unfair advantage rather than equality with men. However, the other SPGS team came up with a completely novel view of the motion, by condemning all compulsory military service as inhuman and, from this premise, arguing that feminists should seek to achieve equality by advocating its total abolition in those countries where it currently exists. Speaking last in support of the motion, Nabil summarised all the arguments that his side had made extremely well, clearly and calmly explaining why he believed the motion should be carried and remembering to give Will plenty of credit. It was evident that the result of this debate would depend on whether the judge regarded the radical, but risky, case from closing Opposition as a valid line of argument. Unfortunately for us she did, and we had to be content with a fourth place to round off the day.

In the final reckoning Will and Nabil finished in 30th place overall, a very respectable result for two speakers who made their representative debut only three months ago. They seemed to enjoy the potentially daunting experience of taking on some of the best debaters of their age and have clearly learned a lot from it. Their levels of commitment and enthusiasm never dropped during a long and tiring day and they were a credit to their families and themselves.