Grove Academy pupils are on top of the world after seeing off international competition to be crowned winners of a virtual debating contest.
Pupils at the Broughty Ferry school took part in an inaugural debating programme, run by the School Mock Court Case Project, last week and were crowned overall winners by a panel of esteemed judges.
The team, made up of pupils Finlay Ross, Iqra Al Taf, Ella Matthews, Jack Anderson and Harry Leadingham, debated the issue of plastics and if they should be banned.
The debate was held virtually and saw almost 200 students from countries including Spain, Holland and Bahrain take part.
Courtney Dow, principal teacher of modern studies at Grove, said: “We have been involved with Mock Court before.
“They reached out to us to say they were launching a debating programme and if we wanted to be involved.
“So I put it out on the school Twitter, and this lovely group volunteered.”
Each school was paired with another for the debate, with each taking the side of either proposition or opposition.
Grove was up against Holyrood Secondary School, from Glasgow, in its debate and argued against the banning of plastics.
The scores from their debate were then tallied up and compared against the others schools to see who came out on top.
Harry explained: “We were the opposition so we were no to banning plastics, and we all argued the same position but with different topics.
“For example, one of us took maths and another science.
“You were judged on things like how well you had researched, your listening skills, your ability to speak well and convey your arguments.”
To help the teams prepare for the debate, they had to tune into four weekly lectures hosted by lecturers including international lawyers and representatives from Greenpeace.
They then had two weeks to prepare for the live debate, but were only told after the lectures what side they would be arguing for.
Jack, who has previous experience of Mock Court, said: “From the very start of the Mock Court you knew what side you would be on but for this, through all of the lectures, you didn’t know.
“That was quite interesting because you were listening to both sides of the argument.”
Harry added: “When I found out we were the opposition, I thought I wouldn’t agree with it.”
The overall winner of the 'Should We Rid the World of Plastics' Debate 2021 is…
GROVE ACADEMY ⭐️
— School Mock Court Case Project SCIO (@MockCourt) April 14, 2021
The pupils used their spare time, including their Easter break, to work together on writing their speeches and practicing the delivery.
And the team’s winning achievement is all the more remarkable considering just two members, Finlay and Ella, have previous debating experience.
Ella said: “I am part of the debating team at school and have debated before, but some people on this team had no experience and wrote and gave their speeches with practically no assistance or coaching – I was so impressed and proud of them all.
“Bear in mind that there were over 200 teams competing from all over the world and we won.
“I honestly didn’t think we had a chance of even coming in the top 10, let alone winning!
Iqra added: “I think I might get into more debating stuff because this was the first time I’d tried it and it’s something I want to do more.”
We were the opposition so we were no to banning plastics, and we all argued the same position but with different topics.”
There was individual success for the Grove team too, with Ella being named as the top opposition speaker and one of two top summary speakers in the whole debate.
She said: “I honestly can’t believe this, it’s an indescribable feeling to be recognised in this way.
“I am so proud of myself and my team for making the best of this bad situation, putting ourselves forward for this debating, working our socks off and winning!
“Today is a great day to be a Grove Academy pupil!”
“It is important to appreciate things like this”
Like thousands of other pupils across Scotland, the debating team have had to contend with the disruption to their education in the past year.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, it has also presented opportunities to pupils.
Ella said: “It wouldn’t have been possible if the competition wasn’t online, owing to the current circumstances.
“Even though the pandemic has been an overall awful experience and time in our lives, it is important to appreciate things like this, things that would not have been possible without the pandemic.”
Jack added: “It’s opens more doors because perhaps if this had been in person, it could’ve been in a different part of Scotland we couldn’t have got to.
“All of the international schools wouldn’t have been able to take part either so it gives you more opportunities.”