French Debating – National Stage

After winning the regional French debating competition last month, we qualified for the national stage, and we couldn’t wait to take part in the next stage at the prestigious French Institute in South Kensington in London.

Seven other debating pairs from different parts of the UK, who like us, had won their regional event, were invited. The two motions debated were:

  • 'L’œuvre est indissociable de l’artiste qui l’a produite' (Art and artist cannot be separated), and
  • 'Les anciennes puissances coloniales doivent restituer les œuvres d’art qu’elles ont acquises pendant la colonisation' (Former colonial powers must give back works of art they took during the colonial period).

It was a unique experience in our school career, and inspiring to work in French on motions with a moral/philosophical dimension with, all in all, less than one week to prepare! Working in an unfamiliar context, the beautiful art deco library of the French Institute, with an audience of approximately 80 people, including the French Cultural Attaché and the Director of the Institute as judges, was a little intimidating at first, but, we quickly found our marks and learned a great deal from the day, gaining confidence and improving on our public speaking skills, literally, by the minute! 

Our first debate was a tough one against a strong pair from Habersdashers' boys and we were, unfortunately, narrowly defeated. Then, came our second debate against Marlborough College with us opposing the motion that art and artist cannot be separated. By then, we were in full flow and won fairly convincingly. While we did not make it to the final due to our initial lost debate, overall, we came an honourable fifth nationally behind KCS Wimbledon, Winchester, Haberdashers' boys and King Edward VI Southampton. Across the country this year, over 90 schools took part in regional heats since last November and only eight were invited to the national stage in London.

We would strongly advise any Sixth Form pupil beginning their language journey in September to participate in MFL debating as it is fun teamwork, intellectually stimulating and we found that the exercise helped enormously with your public speaking skills and general self-confidence. Last but not least, it is an amazing opportunity to represent the School at a regional or national level. Vive les débats! 

Report written by Year 12 pupils, Celeste and Elodie