Hitchin pupils triumph in prestigious debating competition featuring exceptional students – hosted by MP Peter Lilley in the Houses of Parliament

A number of the debaters from Hitchin and Harpenden schools with host Peter Lilley MP.

A number of the debaters from Hitchin and Harpenden schools with host Peter Lilley MP. - Credit: Archant

A Hitchin school has won a prestigious debating competition – hosted by MP Peter Lilley in the stunning splendour of the Houses of Parliament earlier today.

Lizzie Gull from Hitchin Girls' School at Parliament last week.

Lizzie Gull from Hitchin Girls' School at Parliament last week. - Credit: Archant

A team from Hitchin Boys’ School triumphed in the highly-respected event which is growing in popularity year-on-year.

Six state schools across Mr Lilley’s Hitchin and Harpenden constituency competed for the honour.

The tournament was split into two age categories, with one for GCSE students and one for sixth formers, with the judging panel of six split into two groups.

Six teams were entered in each category with each panel judging three lively debates.

In a high-quality, passionate discussion featuring Hitchin Girls’ School and Sir John Laws in Harpenden arguing ‘This House would allow prisoners to vote’, the pair from Hitchin narrowly missed out to the boys.

Hitchin girls’ Year 12 student, 16-year-old Lizzie Gull, who took part in the debate told the Comet: “It was a really good experience.

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“We put a lot of work into researching our argument and surprisingly I didn’t feel nervous at all.

“I think it is so important for young people to engage in the democratic process and I will certainly be voting as soon as I can.

“Politics is everywhere and affects everyone. If you don’t vote you can’t influence anything.

“I really enjoyed the experience. Thank you to Mr Lilley for hosting us in Parliament.”

Marks were awarded for the debaters coherence of argument, wit and style, and responses to questions.

The winning pair from Hitchin Boys’ School gave an articulate and withering response to position – the ‘House would withdraw the invitation to President Trump’, and narrowly triumphed against Harpenden’s Roundwood Park school, winning Robert Tomb’s book The English and their history’ as chosen by Mr Lilley as the prize.

Copies of the book were awarded by Mr Lilley to members of all victorious teams, with the overall winners from each category taking home the trophy shield for their school to display for a year, as well as smaller trophies to keep.

The panel of judges included Canon Michael Roden from St Mary’s Church, along with Councillor for Hitchin Walsworth Elizabeth Dennis.

Chesfield councillors Cathryn Henry (Con) and Terry Tyler (Lib Dem) were represented along with David Williams, Conservative County Councillor and Harpenden Town Councillor David Williams. There was also a representative from the Comet.

Mr Lilley then gave an insightful speech urging all the young people in attendance to become politically active – ‘in any party’, and praised the high quality of debate from all the competitors present.

He said to the young audience in the inspiring setting of Parliament: “I was very impressed by the exceptional standard of debate produced by everyone today.

“It certainly puts to shame the level of debate from some of the ‘inmates’ here in the House of Commons!”

Mr Lilley then offered to give the debaters a tour of the Houses of Parliament, including a trip to the chamber.

The invitation led to excited gasps from many in attendance – who were delighted at the prospect of being given a personal guided tour of the awe-inspiring and historic sandstone building including the House of Commons from their MP.

Councillor Dennis added: “It was a brilliant event – I wish we’d had the opportunity to do this when I was at school.

“The standard of debate from all the teams was exceptional. And there were some really tough topics in there. They were a pleasure to judge, there’s a lot of talent and I expect these kids to go far.

“It’s so inspiring to see young people so passionate about politics and keen to develop debating skills which don’t just help you in political life, but in everything you do. And what better place to have a debating competition than in the Palace of Westminster?

“What really made my day though was when the kids were offered the chance to go and sit in the Commons and there was an excited intake of breath.

“Whoever said young people don’t care about politics?”

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