Words are just enough to win the day

The champions of debating in NSW’s public schools have been decided.

22 December 2020
Five students wear blue uniform and hold a trophy.
Image: Close finish: North Sydney Public team was Catherine, Zara, Lexi, Chhaymean and fifth team member Stian.

There will be no argument over who are the best debaters in NSW after the State finals wrapped up leaving Callaghan College Waratah, North Sydney Demonstration School, James Ruse Agricultural High and Sydney Girls High champions in their respective divisions.

The Arts Unit Speaking Competitions Officer Justine Clarke said the Premier’s Debating Challenge had been an outstanding success after having been forced online by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A total of 1,145 teams from across the State had competed in the various competitions with the Year 5 and 6 competition attracting 666 teams.

The years 5&6 state final was held on December 14 between Terrigal Public School and North Sydney Demonstration School.

Ms Clarke said North Sydney emerged the winners in what the adjudicators said was a very close debate and split decision on the topic that ‘Primary school classes should swap their teachers around every week instead of having the same teacher all year’.

She said while Terrigal put up a good case around helping students adjust to future changes through the practice of experiencing different teaching styles, the adjudicators were ultimately persuaded that this would come at the cost of students being able to build personal relationships with their teachers particularly at the important early levels of schooling.

Image: Diplomatic: Callaghan College Waratah team members and staff from left to right Tesla Moore, teacher Jessica Rose, Rifah Shaeera, principal Hayley Macdonald, Emarehi Okhawere, teacher/coach Brody Seferovic and Chelsea Young.

In the Years 7/8 division the Newcastle-based Callaghan College Waratah team defeated Armidale Secondary College in the final, successfully arguing the negative to the motion that ‘Australia should boycott the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in China’.

The principal of Waratah Campus, Hayley Macdonald, said the school team’s win was testimony to the hard work the students and team coach Brody Seferovic had put in since the first round early in the year.

“Entering the Challenge and maintaining momentum through the year is a huge commitment,” said Ms Macdonald.

“We’re really proud of the team who’ve proved so diligent in their preparation for each debate, and so quick-witted and calm during the actual debates.”

Ms Clarke said the Year 7/8 competition demonstrated how online debating had allowed rural debaters, sometimes disadvantaged by distance, to prove how accomplished they were, with six of the eight teams making up the quarter finals from regional areas.

Image: Sudden death: The James Ruse team of Victoria Hong, Marianne Abzack, Yunji Lee and Daniel Hwang.

James Ruse was lucky to proceed to the Years 9/10 final after losing in the first round of the knockout competition.

Ms Clarke said thanks to a second-chance repechage option, the team was able to re-enter the competition at the quarter-final stage.

“Their coach Chi Truong said the students actually felt less pressure being in the repechage because they didn’t realise they had the chance to re-enter the main competition,” she said.

"This allowed them to have a lot of fun in their debates before they realised that the pressure was back on again.”

James Ruse faced Cammeraygal High in the Years 9/10 final arguing against the notion that parents should be able to withdraw their children from sex education classes.

The adjudicators said James Ruse successfully argued that while parents might have valid reasons to control these sensitive conversations with their own children, they still had the option to do so after issues had been raised in a supportive and controlled school environment.

Earlier this month Sydney Girls High School was crowned Year 11 Premier’s Debating Challenge winners after an online tussle against their neighbours Sydney Boys High.

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