British Parliamentary Debate Goes Virtual at GDST Summer Tournament

By Niamh Stafford, Year 7

Debating tends to be something you’d think is only possible with contact.

Well, on Saturday the 13th of June, a debating squad represented the school in an online parliamentary debate. Organised by Putney High School, the KS3 GDST Summer Tournament was hosted via Microsoft Teams and was judged by sixth form students from a range of GDST schools. 38 teams of pupils took part from all across the GDST. Representing our school this year were Dunya and Ishita on one of the year 7 teams, Elizabeth and Salem on the Year 8/9 team, and then Alexandra Down and myself on the other Year 7 team. None of us representing NHEHS had any experience in this at all as this was our first ever British Parliamentary Debate!

The first motion was ‘We Should Ban Private Tuition’, for which I was on the opposing team. My teammate and I were put in the closing opposition, and also working on the opening opposing team together with two girls from Norwich High School. We only got 15 minutes to prepare (no internet/resources/notes were allowed) and we spent a lot of that trying to find things, as we were not used to using Microsoft Teams!

The Parliamentary debate style, which is the one they use in the government today, is simpler than it looks.

It is opened and introduced by the PM, or Prime Minister. Then it switches to the LO, or Leader of the Opposition, on the opening Opposition team. The focus then goes back to the Opening Proposition team, with the DPM, or the Deputy Prime Minister. After the DPM has spoken, the next person to speak is the DOL, also known as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. After their turn is up, it goes onto a new team; closing Government. The person kicking off for the closing government is known as the MG, or Member of the Government. After their time is up speaking, the Opposition Closing team starts speaking, starting with the OM, which stands for Opposition Member. After that, the Government Whip, also known as GW, starts to speak and, you guessed it, the Opposition Whip or OW speaks. Each person has 7 minutes to say their speech, with the first minute as protected time. Protected time means nobody can ask POIs, or Point Of Interest. A POI is when someone from the opposing team wants to ask a question or say something, usually to try and throw the Speaker off. The Speaker can decline or accept a POI, but the questioner gets a point for their team. Points are scored for POIs, strong speeches, good points and a few others. Although my team started off as the Closing Opposition team, there were three debates, each time switching places.

The place I found hardest was being in the Opening Government for the motion ‘This House Believes We Should Encourage Virtual Living’. For me,  although this was not the hardest of the motions – the most difficult one I found was ‘This House Believes We Should Randomly Select MPs’ – I found it tricky, as I had to argue for this motion when I didn’t really have a view on it. Either way, all teams did well and everyone had fun. Given the opportunity, I would do it again. I did not know about the Parliamentary style until now and it was really interesting to discover more about its format as well as giving me the chance to learn and explore more about the topics up for discussion. 

From Miss Gordon: “Well done to all our teams on the lucidity and passion with which they debated their arguments. Congratulations to Salem and Elizabeth for coming second out of 38 overall!”

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