Great Dunmow Rotary Club Youth Speaks Competition

The colonisation of Mars, ripping up the English curriculum and whether or not films are better than books were among the subjects debated at Felsted on Monday 9 December.

Yr 9 students Toby Stringer, Ellie Dinning and Danielle Fookes were Intermediate Champions in the Great Dunmow Rotary Club Youth Speaks Competition. They defeated Felsted colleagues Josh Buller, Hannah Bacon and Guy Morley-Jacobs, as well as a team from Helena Romanes School, Dunmow, in a contest described by judges as "very close indeed".

The format saw one student propose a motion and a colleague oppose, chaired by the third team member. Points were awarded for content and public speaking skills.

Toby, Ellie and Danielle debated whether there were too many "dead, white, straight men" on the English Literature syllabus. Their Dunmow opponents entertainingly argued over whether or not films were better than books - given that "books do not even need charging".

The most detailed and scientific discussion was on the pros and cons of shifting the remains of the human race to Mars in case we ever need another planet. Josh, Hannah and Guy had a very engaging debate about whether all performance-enhancing drugs should be legalised in professional sport. After all, if some people can use the technological advantages of a training shoe which can buy you four percent more speed, why not use the technological advantages of some currently banned drugs?

Yr 13 Felsted students Charlotte Perry, Henry Dean and Vivian Beale beat a team from Helena Romanes in the Senior Competition. They debated the vexed and very topical issue of lowering the voting age to 16, pointing out that only the Conservatives did not now back this move - and that there were plenty of over-18s less qualified to vote than many more knowledgeable teenagers. It was a question of engagement and education, rather than age.

Both winning teams, coached by Mrs Predebon and Mr Crossley, now go through to the District Final at County Hall, Chelmsford.

Judges' spokesman Richard Harris - Great Dunmow's Town-Crier for the past 20 years - said: "Anyone who saw these young people speaking tonight would have been humbled by what they saw and they would have learned an awful lot. They were all brilliant."

Mr Mark Crossley