Competing in a debating competition used to be a real challenge, often requiring weeks of administration, days of preparation and hours of travel. In lockdown, the virtual alternative has made debating as simple as turning on the computer and logging on to a Zoom call, and Eton’s debating team have excelled in this new format. Debating reached new heights over lockdown and has continued to flourish during this Autumn term.  

The summer holidays saw dozens of high level debating competitions, with the team competing in 24 competitions, eight World Schools, eight international, and six university-level. This effort was well rewarded, with Eton winning 12 competitions, reaching the finals in nine, the semi-finals in two and the quarter-finals in the remaining two.

Not only have competitions and training been more frequent, facilitated by the ease of meeting on Zoom, but the virtual nature of debating has eliminated the previous challenges that competing at international and university competitions presented. Boys are able to compete against esteemed national and international schools, and university teams on a weekly basis — something which was previously impossible due to the complex logistics of competitions, often held in foreign countries.

As well as the main debating team, Eton’s debating society has flourished in lockdown, with hundreds of boys keen on taking part in the debate coaching initiative, launched this year. Over the summer team members sought out opportunities to teach and judge debating for schools who are newer to the debating scene, an initiative which Eton students have vowed to continue.

Whilst other school activities are challenged by the necessity of an online format in a socially distanced world, the art of argument is one that has been able to thrive.