Monday, 26 March 2018

Frankly Speaking Debate Competition at Benjamin Franklin House

Written by Lucy – Year 8 student reporter

On Friday 19th March, Whitley Academy pupils were invited to take part in the Frankly Speaking Debate Competition at Benjamin Franklin House (US Embassy), London.

We left Coventry at 7:11am, and arrived at Euston Station at 8:25am. We then took the underground to the Bloomberg Building, outside it was cloudy and windy, but not too cold.

Very soon we realised the massive Bloomberg Building was just three months old and provides working spaces for 4000 employees! It was vast with lots of open spaces. Whist standing at the Reception, our photos were taken by the cameras right in front of us. The photos were then printed and put on lanyards with our free wifi login details!

We followed the flow of people towards the lifts. They were made entirely of glass and in the centre a magnificent spiral staircase circling endlessly up and down in both directions! As we ascended to the top of the glass elevators, we were greeted with a plethora of stairs weaving in and out of one another as though they were fragile chords being strung together to create a piece of art. When we reached the floor designated for us, we had about 45 minutes to relax and get used to the new environment.

We were invited to breakfast, with an array of food and with so many choices! Anything from bread and butter to crisps and popcorn, you could have had anything! It was a very different world for us all.

We were then taken to a large theatre with several circular tables, each with a free notebook and a nice black pen for everyone attending. After a short introduction from Gemma Smith (Education Manager of Benjamin Franklin House), we were taken to different rooms across the Bloomberg Building. Ciaran and I (Lucy –the blogger) went with our teacher, Mrs Nguyen, and the Year 11 team.

It was very fascinating to be taken back to the exact route we took when we first entered the building. As we looked up, it appeared as though we were encased in a giant dome of wood, before this grandeur, we would appear only as little, colourful specs across the vast wooden sheen and this polished wood curved elegantly round the corner as we proceeded around it towards the first checkpoint.

Then they began! The first round for the Year 11 team.

Tyler and Kuba proposed 30 mins of mandatory exercise for children aged 6-16, giving a very strong argument that was then was opposed by the Harris School who gave an equally strong argument to challenge them. This carried on for several minutes until each team wrapped up and concluded their speeches.

The tense atmosphere soon relaxed as we were given a 15 minute break to plan and refresh before the second round began. This time the topic was about ‘single-use plastics being banned’. Our school was in the Opposition.

Soon it was all finished and we were led back up to the theatre with circular tables where we grabbed a pack lunch and stuffed our faces. Before we knew it, the results were back. Sadly we didn’t make it to the semi-finals, but with our Year 11 team only just losing by 1 point, we were satisfied.

We stayed in the theatre to watch the final debating rounds of the Year 12/13 students. The arguments were very heated and tense about ‘National government should be solely responsible for space exploration’. The contestants who were debating had obviously been practising a lot, and really paced themselves in their arguments. All the four debaters tried their best, with many POIs (Points Of Information). We found it fascinating to witness how knowledgeable each contestant was.

For your information, the highest scoring student in the Frankly Speaking Competition is nominated for a place at the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Summer Institute. It is a completely free trip for the winner!

At 4:50pm, the long awaited moment finally came: the announcement of the winners for both age brackets Years 10/11 and Years 12/13. We joined in with the audience to congratulate those who won the debates.

What an amazing eventful day for all of us! I personally felt proud and delighted to be able to join the audience and watch all the proceedings. Hopefully the experience of today would enable us do well in future debates.