Perse pupils argue their case in reaching major debating finals

Sissi He and Sophie Zhang (both Year 10) demonstrated their persuasive powers to book a place in the Oxford Schools’ Debating Competition finals.

They came third in the online regional stage, featuring around 50 teams, to qualify for the finals in Oxford next month.

Sissi and Sophie were delighted to go through having been involved in debates on topics including positive discrimination being used for men in female-dominated industries and secondary school-aged pupils using artificial intelligence in their studies.

Sophie said: “Although the competition is open to Year 10 upwards, it’s mainly Sixth Form students who take part, so we didn’t expect to go through.”

Sissi commented: “There were a few technical difficulties as we couldn’t get our camera to turn on at first! We were definitely surprised to qualify, but we were very happy.”

They run a debating club for younger Perse pupils keen to get in involved in the activity and believe this has helped them improve their own skills.

Sophie added: “This is the first competition we’ve done as a pair. We decided that I was going to open and Sissi was going to close in debates, and it’s worked for us because we complement each other quite well.”

For Sissi, the Oxford finals will be her second taste of top-level debating after taking part in the International Competition for Young Debaters finals at the Cambridge Union last year.    

She said: “It’s definitely going to be very interesting, but you can get into a routine with debating, and the more experience you have, the better chance you have.

Sophie added: “I’ve never done an international round before, but I’m looking forward to it and it will be a really good learning experience.”   

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