West Craven pupils win national debating contest

Pupils at West Craven High Technology College have proved themselves to be among the best young debaters in the country.

A seven-strong team of girls travelled down to Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire last Tuesday where they won a distinguished Winston Churchill debating competition. The girls’ chose to discuss whether or not they felt Churchill was hindered or advanced by his education by exploring his quote: “Personally I am always willing to learn although I do not always like being taught”. Four of the five other teams were of A-Level age, but despite the difference in years and being the last school up after a two-and-a-half hour wait, the girls held their nerve and delivered.

West Craven High Technology College Year 10 debating team who won the Winston Churchill debating competition at Blenheim Palace.

West Craven High Technology College Year 10 debating team who won the Winston Churchill debating competition at Blenheim Palace.

The winning team consisted of Amelia Pollard, Emma Wallbank, Tilly-May Johnson, Nicole Clutterbrook, Nimrah Khan, Emily Holt and Sam Pilkington.

In May, the Mayor of Pendle Coun. Smith Benson, a member of the Churchill Centre, and Allen Packwood, Director of the Churchill Archives at the University of Cambridge, held a master class with students on Churchill’s oratory and public speaking in preparation for the competition.

And teacher Lianne Abram expressed her delight at the result and how the girls took on board the advice provided to clinch the coveted shield.

She said: “I’m extremely proud of the girls. I don’t think I could have done what they did at 15.

“I think it needs emphasising what a great effort this was.

“This involved a lot of after school and free time preparation. They worked very hard and very well as a team to achieve this.

“It’s astonishing. We were the last team up and had watched everybody beforehand.

“But I just told them to stick to the plan and don’t change anything. They were just so amazing.”

One member of the judging team was actor Robert Hardy and collectively, the judges felt West Craven’s was a great team effort, the group was well organised, the speech was on topic throughout and was well timed.

The team’s speaker Emily Holt was also voted the best of the day by the panel.

After the competition, pupils were taken on a whistle stop tour of the palace and enjoyed lunch by the lake in the magnificent surroundings of Churchill’s birthplace.

This was only the second time West Craven entered the competition and in 2013 it was the first school from the north to have ever entered.

As well as the shield, the Kelbrook Road school also won a book entitled “The Treasures of Winston Churchill, the Greatest Briton” which will take pride of place in the library.