Dozens of students came together for a debating competition as part of a new project set up by a trainee solicitor at a Shropshire law firm.
Holly Edwards, who works at Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors, created the Debate-Ed programme for sixth form students to mentor school pupils to develop their debating and presenting skills.
The competition took place at Shrewsbury Sixth Form College with students from Adams Grammar School, Meole Brace and Prestfelde School taking part.
A team from Adams Grammar School were the overall winners and they were presented with a trophy, donated by Lanyon Bowdler Solicitors, who had sponsored the programme and provided support and resources towards its development.
Judge Jim Tindal and Shrewsbury’s Mayor, Councillor Miles Kenny, both sat on the judging panel for the competition and gave the children words of encouragement.
Shrewsbury and Atcham MP, Daniel Kawczynski, spoke to the students to give them advice and tips, and members of staff from Lanyon Bowdler also provided support.
Four rounds of debating took place with the final being held in the main hall in front of more than 50 people, on the topic of whether the Government should introduce a sugar tax.
Holly, who launched Debate-Ed back in September, said the project had been a great success.
She said: “A huge well done to everyone who took part, impressing the judges with their critical thinking and speaking skills.
“Giving students the opportunity to talk about interesting topics over a number of sessions has really helped build their confidence and encouraged them to think more deeply about current issues in the world.”
Judge Jim Tindal praised the students debating skills, saying: “Everyone who participated in this competition has reason to feel proud.
“The quality of debating was very high, remarkably so with some of the younger competitors. And some of the best debaters would be capable of conducting a simple court trial now. They were that good.”
In total, more than 100 pupils have participated in the Debate-Ed workshops.
Holly added: “We have had some great feedback from the pupils. Debating skills are very important for a law career, but whatever job you do, the ability to be analytical and see things from different points of view is hugely useful.
“I used to do debating at university and was part of the Debate Mate programme, which runs debating sessions with schools in big cities across the UK.
“When I came back to Shropshire, I was keen to set something up with schools here, and approached Shrewsbury Sixth Form College with the idea of some students becoming mentors and it’s gone from there.”
Holly said the programme was looking to recruit more mentors to teach sessions at their local secondary schools from May.
Lanyon Bowdler partner Kay Kelly, who was also a judge at the event on March 5, said the law firm was pleased to have supported Holly through the development of the Debate-Ed project.
“I felt very proud in the fact Lanyon Bowdler is contributing to the education and development of some of the local younger generation,” she said. “Hopefully we will benefit from some of them using us for legal services in years to come.”
For more information about the programme, visit the website at www.debate-ed.co.uk or connect on twitter @debate-ed