Students from Catholic sixth forms from across West London convened at City Hall on 2February for the first ever meet of the London Catholic Sixth Form Debating Association. The debating competition was a quick-fire battle with teams given just minutes to prepare their speeches before taking to the floor. The competition format was a series of knockout rounds then a final between the last two surviving teams. The eventual winners were Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School and involved competitors from four sixth forms including London Oratory, St. Dominic’s College and Sacred Heart Hammersmith.
The entire event was organised by sixth formers with support from Labour GLA member Navin Shah. Anuwlika Elliott, aged 17, co-organised the event with Natalia Rowczenio, also 17. Elliott, a pupil at Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, Holland Park said ‘We wanted to share our love of debating and felt there was a lack of state school competitions and chances to discuss moral issues. So we came up with our own event for Catholic sixth formers like ourselves who are passionate about voicing their opinions on the key issues which affect young people in the capital and to encourage wider political engagement.’
A variety of motions were discussed on a diverse range of topics such as: ‘This house would allow prisoners to vote’ and ‘This house would legalise polygamy’. The motion debating size zero models proved to be one of the liveliest discussions with Orla Rafferty of Sacred Heart winning best speaker for her contribution.
The judging panel was made up of a team of debating experts including Zak Wagman, the Harrow Youth Parliament representative, and UCL Student Jasmine Botchey. Explaining the reasons why Cardinal Vaughan were crowned champions, Botchey said: ‘A strong performance from all the teams made our decision really difficult but the Vaughan team stood out for their ability to clearly articulate their argument.’
Navin Shah, who represents Brent and Harrow on the Greater London Assembly, said: ‘I was delighted to arrange the event at City Hall as it provides a wonderful opportunity for teenagers to get to the heart of decision making in the capital. Who knows, maybe one of them will come back here one day as the Mayor of London!’
The association has plans to expand in the future with more competitions and events to encourage Catholic sixth formers to speak out and get their voices heard.