When asked what makes Branksome’s Debate and Public Speaking program unique, new Grade 10 student Helen notes, “What's special about the club is that everyone starts at their own individual skill level and has the chance to develop their own speaking skills with detailed feedback from coaches and student leaders. Every single member moves at their own pace and makes their own progress in a welcoming and supportive environment." This year, the students leveraged the incredible support from the program and earned spots at all of the major Debate and Public Speaking tournaments.
In the fall debating season, Branksome students hit the ground running. This group of talented students won a number of competitions and qualified for championships around the world. Grade 12 student Olivia qualified to represent Branksome and Canada at the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships, and Grade 12 students Hao and Elizabeth were finalists at the National British Parliamentary Debate Championships (where they earned a spot to represent Branksome Hall and Canada at the Oxford Schools competition). Students Anna and Grace qualified for the Senior Public Speaking Championships in Winnipeg. Later in the season, four Branksome Hall teams finished among the top 10 at the Toronto Regional Qualifier for the Senior Provincial Debate, while three teams qualified for the championships.
As the fall transitioned into winter, the success of Branksome’s debaters and public speakers continued. Anna joined Olivia, Fatima and Grace in qualifying for the World Individual Debating and Public Speaking Championships in the spring. The winter term concluded with Hao and Elizabeth traveling to Oxford, England where they went into the semifinals as the only undefeated team out of more than 60 participating teams.
During the spring term, the debaters and public speakers continued to push themselves. Helen won the English Speaking Union National Public Speaking Competition and represented Branksome and Canada at the English Speaking Union International Public Speaking Competition. At Worlds, GY student Olivia made it to the persuasive finals as well as the impromptu speaking, and finished 23rd overall.
Younger debaters were inspired by the success and dedication of their older peers and succeeded at their own competitions as well. Grade 9 students Katie, Sienne and Sarah qualified for the Junior National Debate and Public Speaking Championships while Jade and Victoria earned a spot to compete at the Junior National Debate Championships.
Branksome Hall is also one of the few schools in Ontario and the only girls’ school that offers debate in both French and English. The final two weeks of the season culminated with students Sobée and Annie winning the French National Debate Championships in Edmonton, Annie’s favourite competition of the year. “It was the first time that I travelled far for a debating competition,” said Annie. “I deeply enjoyed making connections with debaters and developing my French skills."
While the competitive debate season wrapped up in the first week of May, the debate season continued at Branksome when the school held the final debate of the inaugural Re:Solved
competition. Four students—Raine Gurton from Little Flower Academy, Emily Su from Crofton House, Julian Zhang from University of Toronto Schools and Ruisi He from Shanghai American School—competed in the historic University of Toronto Hart House Debates Room on the topic we can appreciate art even if the artist is personally reprehensible. In the end, it was the opposition team of Julian Zhang and Ruisi He that took the $5000 prize.
When asked what motivates her to participate in debating and public speaking, Sobée said: "I really enjoy getting the chance to learn a lot about controversial topics that aren't typically discussed in a classroom environment. It allows me to broaden my knowledge of current affairs while approaching the subject with an analytical mindset.” One of the other key factors students noted that make Branksome's Debate and Public Speaking Program stand out is the support students receive from faculty. Sobée expresses her gratitude to coaches Owen Williams, Emma Taman and Grace Nolan: “Thank you to our extraordinary debate coaches, who are very invested in the club and help promote a supportive and uplifting environment!"
The Branksome Hall community congratulates all of our debaters and public speakers on an extremely successful year. Follow the team on Instagram
as they resume competing in the fall.