STUDENTS from Ermysted's Grammar School pitted their debating skills against teams from Ilkley Grammar School in a 'youth speaks' competition.

Held at Ermysted's in Skipton, the Rotary Youth Speaks competition, organised by Skipton Rotary Club, saw two teams from Ilkley, and five from Ermysted's debate a variety of topics, from the death penalty to the keeping of animals in captivity.

The judges, who praised the teams for their research and for 'challenging thinking', were Paul Wright, of Skipton Craven Rotary Club, Rev James Theodosius, Rector of Holy Trinity Church, Skipton, and Gwendoline Rowe, area president of The Craven Speakers Club.

Each team, made up of a chairperson, a proposer, and an opposer, was given 15 minutes to convince the audience of the validity of its argument when debating a motion of its choice.

Ilkley Grammar School won the senior age group competition with its team debating the restoration of the death penalty.

Its chairperson, Sylvie Morris opened the debate by introducing the subject while Francesca Clasper proposed the motion. Francesca said that prisons were overcrowded and the death penalty would be a deterrent, saying that knife crime had increased by 70 per cent because the current penalty is not a deterrent. She argued that the death penalty would remove the offender from society and they would no longer pose a threat.

Opposer, Mischa Boyd argued that there was little evidence that the death penalty would be a deterrent and that there would always the risk of error. She argued rehabilitation was a better way to reduce offending as evidenced by Norway’s success in reducing re-offending from 70 per cent to 20 per cent through its programme of rehabilitation. Sylvie Morris summed up what had been said by her two colleagues, and closed the debate.

The winners of the Intermediate age group were the Ermysted’s 1 team which debated whether animals should be placed in captivity.

Chairperson, Lewis McAvan, opened the debate, and proposer Sachin Daniel spoke in favour of the motion. Sachin argued that zoos and safari parks increased the numbers of endangered species through their breeding programmes and that animals could help humanity, such as the use of snake venom to produce antidotes that could save lives. The opposer, Stanley Dunne was concerned by the number of animals kept in testing laboratories, which he said was as many as 100 million. Once again the chairperson summarised what had been said and closed the debate.

The winner of the trophy for the best overall speaker was Sachin Daniel, a member of the team Ermysted’s 1, the winning intermediate team.

Special mention was made by the judges of Leila Rae, Aashaz Zia and Theo Macintyre for their 'excellent performances', praising Aashaz for his 'fantastic delivery', and singling out Theo as a 'great chairperson'.

In announcing the results and commenting on the performances, judge, Paul Wright, of Skipton Craven Rotary Club, said that the judges felt informed, and challenged in their thinking, and that a huge amount of research and knowledge from the teams had gone into gaining the facts.

He added there had been a great choice of topics, and students showed how different views could be expressed and at the same time leave the audience to make up their own minds. However, he suggested that they should not rely on the facts alone but use them to support their argument.

Certificates, prizes and trophies were presented by Nicky Shoesmith, President of Skipton Rotary Club and Mike Thornett was Master of Ceremonies. He congratulated the students and thanked the judges, parents, Pippa Davies, Deputy Head at Ermysted’s; and the Rotarians who organised and ran the competition.

The other teams were, Ilkley Grammar School, intermediate. In this team were Layla-Rae Stancliffe, Eva Joyce and Katy Slater who debated 'This house believes we should abolish all zoos'. Ermysted’s 2 (Intermediate), Zac Sage, Dylan Roberts, and Jamie Gokhale chose ‘This government’s priority should be on scientific advancement rather than conservation of the environment’.

Ermysted’s 3 (intermediate) Sidaarth Chakravarthy, Hanzalah Ahmed and Theo Macintyre spoke on 'The government’s strategy to restrict the use of cigarettes does not go far enough’ and Ermysted’s 4 (intermediate), Joseph Williams, Lucian Manville and Yusuf Khan who debated on whether ‘The government needs to do more to tackle obesity’.

Lastly, Ermysted’s 5 (intermediate), Aashaz Zia, William Birkby, and Lewis McAvan discussed ‘Should organic farming be compulsory?’.

Rotary Clubs run several youth competitions. For more information look at www.rotarygbi/competitions, or contact