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Debating is an acquired skill that requires teamwork, an ability to think analytically and considerable oral facility. As such, it is an activity that readily complements the school’s academic programme and helps students to speak with conviction and influence.
Debating is offered throughout the year, with the specific timing of a student’s involvement dependent on his age and the type of competition of which he is a part. Current students participate in trials towards the end of the school year, whereas new boys have an opportunity to trial once they start at Churchie.
There are two associations of which the school is a part and therefore, two potential levels of involvement for boys: Great Public Schools (GPS) and the Queensland Debating Union (QDU).
GPS Debating runs in Terms 1 and is available to boys in Years 5 to 12. Churchie has a full complement of 26 teams in this competition. In 2007 and in 2012 the Senior A Team was GPS undefeated Premiers. The QDU competition runs throughout Terms 1 to 3 and is available to all boys in Years 7 to 12. It is in this arena that Churchie has enjoyed considerable success.
In 2008 we gained the Ben Prior Memorial Trophy for Champion Year 8 School. This was especially pleasing as Ben was a former Captain of Debating and House-captain of Grenfell (1992). From 2006 to 2009 Churchie was the winner of the Garth Kolter Memorial Trophy for QDU Champion Debating School.
Churchie is a venue school during the QDU Competition, hosting numerous teams from around Brisbane on each occasion. The level of enthusiasm for debating at Churchie is evident; each year, we have over 100 boys participating in the GPS and QDU competitions. More than 20 dedicated coaches help to ensure that each team receives support and training in order to help them to improve their thinking, listening skills, speaking ability, confidence and ability to work interdependently.
Debating workshops for all are usually arranged at the start of each year and senior boys gain extra skills if trialling for the Queensland Schools Team or attending either the UQ Schools Day or the QDU Summer School.
Teams are coached by a combination of teaching staff, Old Boys and other interested people.
The first recorded debate held at the school took place in February 1925 when a debating society was established. The issue for debate that night was the abolition of capital punishment, a topical issue since Queensland had recently become the first state in the Commonwealth to remove the death penalty from its statute books. The society did not outlast the boys who set it up and it was not until six years later that another attempt was made by boys in Year 10 to establish a debating society in 1931.
Debating struggled for more years to come. Despite only one-off interschool contests, debating continued as essentially a school-based activity until 1942 when it ceased altogether. The war, restriction of activities and loss of staff were issues they came up against.
This changed in 1952 with regular competitions occurring within the GPS system. The QDU rules were developed and in 1966 debating became an official GPS activity, although remaining an informal competition with no premiership or trophy. This changed in 1991 when the GPS schools began to compete for an annual debating title.