Lyndsey Thomson is the Society's careers and outreach coordinator. Lyndsey works on a number of education and training initiatives and having recently taken on the Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament, she tells us about what's involved.
So it’s fair to say that when I was handed over the Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament, I completely underestimated the scale of the task ahead of me!
I knew of the tournament and had previously gone along as an observer but until I became the project lead, I had no idea that I was organising the biggest schools debating competition in Scotland and one of the biggest events in the calendar of the Scottish Parliament, where the final takes place.
With 128 teams nationwide and over 100 judges signed up, we started the mammoth task of the first-round draw. As a complete debate novice with a limited knowledge of local authorities and their geographies, even getting to grips with debating terminology was a feat in itself but with a feeling of great accomplishment, all first round heats successfully took place in November.
No rest for the wicked though and round two heats were quickly on our minds in the run up to Christmas. 64 teams progressed from the first rounds and I slowly but surely started to get my head around things to start planning for round two. The second-round heats came and went in January with only a few minor hiccups involving sourcing judges at the twelfth hour – sometimes over 100 just isn’t enough!
64 teams became 16 for the semi-finals, which took place in March. I really didn’t envy the teams this time around (not that I envied them at all – public speaking is not my forte)! With four unseen motions which are revealed to each team one hour prior to the debate, the pupils had only one hour to prepare without using computers or smart phones... quite an achievement in this day and age – I couldn’t even write this blog without checking mine!
Around this time, we also start to think about planning for the final, which takes place this Thursday, 15th June, in the Debating Chamber of the Scottish Parliament.
I can’t quite believe how quickly the final has come around and the atmosphere is certainly buzzing, both at the Society and amongst our four finalists - the High School of Dundee, Madras College, Douglas Academy and Kelvinside Academy, are all busy prepping to debate the motion, “This house would deny smokers free access to healthcare” – rather them than me!
It’s also great to hear that there is huge hype amongst our attending pupils from previous rounds and those who are involved in our other outreach initiatives - they are all given the exciting opportunity to sit in MSPs’ seats on the chamber floor and participate in the floor debate with the chance to win themselves a prize and have a taste of what could be theirs in next year’s competition.
With over 100 pupils seated on the floor of the debating chamber and over 100 other guests and supporters in the public gallery, including friends and family of the finalists, VIPs and esteemed judges from previous rounds, I’m sure you’ll agree that the pressure is on to get it right!
And on that note – I have a seating plan to organise…
Follow the debate and support the finalists on social media: #DewarDebate, @DouglasAcad, @Kelvinside1878, @HSofDundee, @Madrascollege