The opening round of the English-Speaking Union School's Mace - the oldest and largest schools debating competition in the UK - was hosted this year by Aylesbury Grammar School. The evening saw teams of two Year 12s, from six schools, battle it out in three high-calibre debates; where the winners of each individual discussion would progress to the next round of the competition. Representing Challoner’s were Rohan Montgomery and Louis Williams.

This was a definite step up from our weekly debating at Challoner’s; initial speeches were expected to last seven minutes (compared to our normal three), and a further four minute summary speech was also expected. Furthermore, participants had to be ready to deal with challenging questions put forward by audience members during the floor debate. In total, each contest lasted around 45 minutes.

The first debate set the tone for the rest of the evening: fast paced, skilful rhetoric, and powerful arguments. The motion, 'This house would have the British Government pay reparations for the slave trade', was a morally difficult one that was won by John Hampden Grammar School. The second debate tackled the question of introducing diversity quotas into the BBC. Caught up in exact numbers, the opposition was defeated by the hosts.

The final debate of the night saw us deal with the issue of whether or not to ban prison sentences for non-violent crimes. In a painfully close contest, we were narrowly beaten by only half a point.

Congratulations to all those who took part, and we would like to wish good luck to those progressing to the next stages of the competition.