Sydney Girls wins debating title

The NSW Premier’s Debating finals got under way yesterday with the Year 11 competition a contest between neighbours.

Image: A way with words: Year 11 NSW Debating champions

In a battle of the sexes Sydney Girls High School was yesterday crowned Year 11 Premier’s Debating Challenge winners after an online tussle against their neighbours Sydney Boys High.

Arguing for the negative on the debate topic ‘That the government should impose financial penalties on people who refuse to take the Covid 19 vaccine’, the adjudicators said the Sydney Girls High School team was able to argue effectively that financial penalties for avoiding the corona virus vaccine would unfairly harm the poor.

Yesterday’s final was the first in a series of debating finals that mark the end of one of the debating program’s most unusual years.

The Arts Unit’s Speaking Competitions Officer Justine Clarke said the move to an online format due to COVID-19 restrictions had been incredibly successful with the competition kicking off in Term 3.

A total of 1,145 teams from across the State had competed in the various competitions with the Year 5 and 6 competition attracting 659 teams.

Ms Clarke said the online format had many positives, in particular it had created a ‘level playing field’ for regional and remote competitors many of whom were more comfortable with the online format.

“Regional schools have always had this distance issue and are used to virtual debates, so in the beginning that could have been a bit of an advantage,” she said.

“However, the main difference was that we had adjudicators available to do debating events all over the State, so our country students were getting access to different perspectives and some quite high-profile adjudicators for feedback.”

Highlighting the flexibility of the virtual format, one of the adjudicators, Bowen Zhang, was caught in the UK as part of the COVID-19 lockdown when the competition started and was able to still participate because of the online format.

When he returned to Australia he continued to adjudicate while undertaking his two-week quarantine in a Sydney hotel.

Ms Clarke said while many of the adjudicators did miss the face-to-face contact, the online approach had cut down on hours of driving and enabled them to also work outside their regions.

She said they were expecting to continue utilising the online format in 2021 and expected more teams to be involved after the success of this year’s events.

Three more online state debating finals will occur next week rounding off the season of online debating for the year.

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