Bolton School Senior Girls

Girls Discover Their Voice

Year 7 girls at Bolton School have been "discovering their voice" during a day's training in formal debating run by the English Speaking Union (ESU). The programme of workshops introduced various elements of debate including generating arguments, putting together evidence, listening and responding, and expressive delivery.

The sessions were delivered by three experienced ESU mentors: James Hardy, an experienced teacher and a competitive debater who was recruited to coach the University of Vermont’s inter varsity debating society; Tom Henderson, who has a background in musical performance and poetry readings and is a former competitor in the ESU public speaking competition; and Anna England Kerr, who runs the Discover Your Voice programme, having previously worked in Europe and for QatarDebate, heading their English debate programme and coaching their national schools’ team.

The facilitators challenged the girls with sophisticated vocabulary and difficult topics to debate, including should people face shame punishments for petty crimes, should parents be given access to their child’s Facebook account, doping in professional sport, should independent schools be abolished and should there be equal coverage of men and women’s sports on television? Working in teams, girls constructively challenged each others’ opinions as they defended or argued against the motion before taking a deciding vote.

Mrs Lowe, a Girls’ Division English teacher, said, “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 mentors were very complimentary about our girls, who stayed focused, worked hard throughout the day and picked up lots of useful skills and advice that they will take with them into future debates.”

The workshops were organised as part of the girls’ Stratford Week: half the year group travelled to Stratford for half the week whilst the other girls enjoyed the debating workshops and a trip to Chester Zoo. Later in the week, activities were reversed for the other half of Year 7.

James Hardy, ESU Mentor, guides girls through another debate

James Hardy, ESU Mentor, guides girls through another debate

Girls took turns to argue and counter-argue different viewpoints

Pupils enjoyed constructive criticism throughout the day