Loughborough High School girls Izzy and Safiya ensured that the school made history last month by securing both a place in the semi-finals, and a runners-up place in the History Association’s Great Debate, with the school having entered the competition for the first time this year.
The Great Debate is a public speaking competition where students have five minutes to present a speech, arguing their answer to a specific historical question, having undertaken extensive research on the topic. This year’s question was Which historical place or person from your local areas deserves greater recognition?
Both Year 12 girls threw themselves at the task with gusto and were required to independently research, prepare notes and condense all their information into a presentation that was no longer than five minutes. They sought out topic ideas that made local connections and used the school’s archives as part of their research methodology.
Izzy decided to undertake her presentation on Margaret Wintringham, a local MP who was the first woman to take a seat in British Parliament. Safiya focused her research and presentation on a place, Shady Lane Arboretum in Leicester, a medieval manor house estate which became a prisoner of war camp during the Second World War. Both girls presented freely within minimal use of notes, to an audience of over 30 in a competitive environment.
They clearly made an impact with the judges; Safiya scooped the runners-up place and Izzy placed first, landing a place in the semi-finals later this month, which will hopefully see her heading to London next month to represent the school in the national finals.
Head of History at Loughborough High School, Mrs Gillett said: “I’m incredibly proud of both girls. This is the first time we have entered the school into the Great Debate, and for both girls to have done so well is a wonderful achievement, and testament to how we try, as a department, to encourage the girls to take risks and challenge themselves.”
“I am particularly pleased that Margaret Wintringham was the focus of Izzy’s talk, as the contributions of women have often been overlooked or marginalised throughout history. Female history is integral to the history department at LHS, and celebrating female history within the context of the Great Debate provides a meaningful inspiration. It recognises and honours women’s achievements and struggles, and it ensures that their stories are heard, and their legacies remembered. Furthermore, it helps to counteract the notion that certain professions or roles are exclusively for men and demonstrates the diversity of talents and abilities among women.”
Izzy said: “I found the experience both extremely enjoyable and helpful for my academic studies. The process itself was very interesting as I researched a woman in depth, who so few had heard of. Then came the actual debate, which was very nerve wracking but also exciting. I am nervous again for the semi-final but whatever happens, I have found the whole journey amazing and would recommend anyone who can, to give it a go in the future!”
Safiya added: “In the Great Debate, we spoke up for our local heroes and places, shedding light on their stories, which deserve recognition. It was an honour to be their voice.”