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Year 7 Girls Discover Their Voice

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Year 7 girls were treated to a ‘Discover Your Voice’ day run by the English Speaking Union (ESU) this week. The programme of workshops throughout the day aimed to introduce the various different elements of debate: generating arguments, putting together evidence, listening and responding, and expressive delivery.

The sessions were delivered by student mentors, all of whom are involved with debating unions at university, and have been trained to run the ‘Discover Your Voice’ course by the ESU. There was definitely no dumbing down from the undergraduates and postgraduates who were running the sessions! They challenged the girls with sophisticated vocabulary and difficult topics to debate, including the death penalty, violence in computer games, and the pros and cons of zoos. Their probing questions really required the girls to engage with the topics and work hard to argue for or against the motion.

Mrs Lowe, one of the Girls’ Division English teachers, said, “The student mentors were hugely complimentary about our girls. The Law student I was working with said that these girls had taken a morning to get to grips with a debating approach that can take other students weeks. The girls thoroughly enjoyed the day and were a credit to the school.”

The day ended with a series of timed ‘extended mace’ format debates, with three speakers for the motion and three against. The girls listened as each group argued their case, discussing diverse and complicated issues. They asked questions and made appropriate comments before the final speakers on either side had their say and the motion was put to the vote.

This was a really valuable experience for the girls, allowing them to hone their speaking and listening abilities, as well as their ability to argue a point in a coherent and compelling manner.
The Year 7 girls will now be invited to come along to Middle School Debating, which convenes on Thursday lunchtimes, and will give them further opportunities to debate and practise the skills learned through the ‘Discover Your Voice’ event.


The workshop days were organised as part of the girls’ Stratford Week: half the year group travelled down to Stratford for the early part of the week, and enjoyed the debating workshops on Thursday followed by a trip to Chester Zoo on Friday. The week’s activities were reversed for the other half of Year 7.

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Short debates at the end of the day allowed all pupils to practise the techniques learned

Short debates at the end of the day allowed all pupils to practise the techniques learned

The girls were eager to chip in with their ideas throughout the day

The girls were eager to chip in with their ideas throughout the day

Discussing motions in pairs to come up with three arguments for and three against

Discussing motions in pairs to come up with three arguments for and three against