The AIS NGS Super Virtual Debating Competition has been the one event/competition that has persevered during the year, and what a way to end a season! SMGS fielded five teams across competitions from Primary to Year 11, with the Primary and Year 8 teams reaching the final sixteen in Australia. On Friday, 26 November, the SMGS (A) Year 9/10 team progressed to the Grand Final, winning their semi-final over Newcastle Grammar School. SMGS argued the negative case for the topic that there should be a fifty per cent reduction on sentencing terms if a person pleads guilty. According to the adjudicator, it was a very tightly contested debate. Congratulations to Ruby, Georgia, Emily and Banjo, who now debate against the team from Frensham.

At the helm of Snowy Mountains Grammar School’s robust debating program is HSC English teacher, Anne Jones. Anne is also one of the driving forces behind the SMGS Maria Kisich public speaking competition, an event named in honour of the school’s first English teacher, one of the founding teachers of Snowy Mountains Grammar School, and who promoted the importance of public speaking skills and encouraged their development at SMGS.

While our students and staff have certainly missed face-to-face events over the last few years, embracing the AIS NGS Super National Virtual Debating competition and similar opportunities has continued to enable our students to participate in events, to meet and interact with students from other schools and regions, and has alleviated the need to drive to Canberra mid-week as the team did all those years ago.

Danielle Ternes-Dixon, SMGS English teacher and one of the SMGS debating team coaches, summarised succinctly this year’s debating season and the symbolic nature of ending such a challenging year with a positive result, saying, “This year our teams have all fought it out with debating teams of the very highest calibre. SMGS has held its own and built skills and camaraderie to be proud of. The teams were led and supported by Anne Jones, who spent countless hours organising teams, organising the dates between the schools for debates, getting the virtual debates up on the screen (always the nerve-wracking moment of truth, as we forfeit if we are not there, and saved more than once by our fabulous, cool, calm and collected IT department!), as well as writing up reports to share our teams’ wins and losses with our SMGS community. All this was achieved in Anne’s usual ‘no fuss, no bother’ inspiring way! Well done to all the teams!”

Principal Dr Andrew Bell echoed Danielle’s sentiment of the debating program’s success, saying, “The strength of our debating program at SMGS is thriving across all year levels and is a true testament to the dedication and support of our staff, and the focus and enthusiasm of our students. Anne Jones has continued to strengthen the legacy of our debating programs through some of the most challenging times, embracing technology, adapting and, above all else, continuing to find ways to provide an exceptional learning experience for our students. Anne’s calm and confident leadership and proven coaching philosophy has helped to build our debating program into one of the best in the country. Thank you to all our staff, parents and students who have supported our debating program this year. What a wonderful way to end the 2021 school year.”

We caught up with Anne to ask her a few questions about what she loves about this dynamic co-curricular, skill development and her initial reactions to winning the semi-final round. Her answers were as follows:

What do you love most about debating?

Seeing the students evolve their understanding of how to communicate with each other and build a sense of teamwork through collaboration.

Our teams have all been so successful. What do you think are some of the key skills students need to develop to be successful in the virtual debating/regular debating forum?

Listening is the key skill which all our teams are constantly working on. Listening to the opposition. However, equally important is listening to each other when they are doing preparation for their debates, whether the one-hour prep for the impromptu Year 9-12 debates, or the week’s preparation the younger debaters have.

Debaters also have to be quick at organising their thoughts, sorting out the relevance of points in what can be some pretty tough topics for teenagers sometimes. An awareness of Australian and international issues is very helpful. They need to be able to see the bigger issues that topics might pose.

What was your reaction when they won the semi-finals? A lot of hard work has gone into building this program for some time. You must be so proud!

When they won, I thought we were fortunate – it was clearly that close!

We look forward to cheering our debating team on in the finals this Thursday 2 December.