Debate-Ed Year TwoPublished on: 04 October 2016
Year Two of the award winning Debate-Ed Programme officially launched last week at Lanyon Bowdler’s Shrewsbury office.
The launch event celebrated the success of the programme during Year One and set out the plan for Year Two. Students from Meole Brace and Shrewsbury Sixth Form College were welcomed to the event by Mayor Jones and Brian Evans, Lanyon Bowdler’s Managing Partner. The students were then asked to debate a number of controversial topics, such as whether parents should be allowed to take their children on holiday during term time and whether animal testing for cosmetic or medical purposes could be justified.
Both Brian and the Mayor spoke about the trepidation many people feel when faced with public speaking. Even those who have to do it often, such as solicitors and barristers, can still find it a daunting experience, particularly when they are speaking to an unfamiliar audience. People often worry they will make a mistake when speaking and, ironically, this fear often results in the speaker becoming more tense or self-conscious, making mistakes more likely.
This is a fear I can empathise with as I still remember the fear I used to feel when, as a student, I had to speak in front of the class. The nerves would make my hands shake and I had to be careful not to let my voice shake as well. One tactic I established was to ensure I put my notes on a table in front of me as holding them would make the shakes more obvious and pronounced. Once the notes were on the table, I would hold my hands behind my back so that I would at least appear confident. For a long time I was simply pretending to be confident, but over time and with repeated exposure to public speaking, the confidence became more natural and, eventually, my hands stopped shaking. I became comfortable and happy speaking in public, which has helped me greatly at university, at work and in my social life.
Bringing Debating to Shropshire
Helping students across Shropshire to overcome this fear and to become more confident, comfortable speakers is one of the principal goals of the Debate-Ed programme. This is achieved by engaging students in fun workshops where the students have the opportunity to discuss a variety of topics and to practice their speaking skills in a constructive and encouraging environment. These workshops will be led by students from Shrewsbury Sixth Form College, giving them the opportunity to develop their teaching and leadership skills.
This year, the workshops will be delivered as a part of certain classes at Prestfelde School, Priory School and Meole Brace School for students from Years 7 to 9. The workshops will be delivered over a number of weeks, leading up to a debating competition in March 2017 which will be open to schools across Shropshire.
By March 2017, over 200 students will have been involved in debating workshops as part of the Debate-Ed Programme. This should help the students to develop their critical thinking, speaking and listening skills and their awareness of a range of topics including human rights, freedom of speech and feminism.