Sixth Formers Reach Cambridge Union Finals Again

At 7.15am on Saturday 3 March, four Year 13 students boarded the minibus with Mr Senior, Director of Sixth Form, to make the hour and a half journey to attend the Cambridge Union Final.

Two teams won places at the final. The first team were made of Sara Dehvari and Haider Nazerali. Our second team was Salem Ali and Akira Alman. Both teams had won a place at this much coveted final consisting of only 36 teams from all over the world. To win their place in the earlier debating rounds they had beaten prestigious independent and selective schools including Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, Watford Grammar School for Boys, John Lyons School and Merchant Taylors’ School.

It was a long day consisting of four preliminary rounds, with 15 minutes’ preparation time for each. They debated a range of motions, the most challenging being ‘This house supports pre-entry closed shops’ in which Sara and Haider came second. They went on to win the next round when debating ‘This house as the US Democratic Party would campaign to repeal the Second Amendment.’

Sara commented, “This was my third Oxbridge Finals day and, as my last, this was certainly the most memorable.” Haider, who joined KHS Sixth Form principally so he could be part of a thriving and successful Debating Society, added, “The Cambridge Final was my eighth competition this year and, at this event, we competed against some of the best debaters in the country, if not the world. Getting to 14th place was a fantastic achievement.” Salem added, “It was a great event in my final year in the school and all the weekly practices paid off to help me get into this final.”

Just being at this final was an amazing achievement as the best debaters in the world were at the event, some flying from as far as Canada, Sri Lanka and Singapore. Some of the debaters were in National Squads and debated for their country. Thanks to Mr Mitchell for running the weekly practice debates and for organising and attending so many competitions throughout the year.

UCL Schools’ Debating Cup

A small group of KHS students travelled to the Institute of Education to compete in the UCL Schools’ Debating Cup, a fiercely contested event with teams from some of the best debating schools in the country (such as Dulwich College, Eton and St Paul’s Girls). Kingsbury High School was represented in the competition by Aaron Stevens and Arran Jabbari, two Debating Society regulars but external competition “novices”, with support on the sidelines from Nikita Shikotra and Nauman Zahid; and Kingsbury’s Head Boy, Haider Nazerali, competed for the Debate Mate organisation with a partner from another school. They all enjoyed the competition and the motions were challenging but also very interesting.

It became clear, as the competition progressed, that Haider’s team was heading for the finals and we all stayed to watch his brilliant performance in the semi-final (on requiring games manufacturers to promote female protagonists), followed by his characteristically strong contribution to an exceptionally hard-fought final on a motion proposing the selling of citizenships. In the end Haider shared joint first prize with his Debate Mate partner as Best Speaker on the Day (highest scoring across all debates) and was a Runner-Up in the Final, with the Debate Mate team narrowly losing to  Dulwich College.

Haider is next representing Kingsbury High School in the National Finals of the Cambridge Union Schools Debating Competition, in which he will be partnered by Head Girl, Sara Dehvari. The school will also be represented in these finals by Salem Ali and Akira Allman, who have performed superbly in Wednesday lunch-time debates over the course of the year.

Debating & Public Speaking at Kingsbury High

As the Upper School Debating Society brings its season to a close, and the Lower School Debating Society looks likely to host the English Speaking Union’s London Debate Challenge this term, it is a pleasure to reflect on the year’s highlights (so far).

The crowning achievement was the success of Iman Mohamed (Year 13) and Sara Dehvari (Year 11) in reaching the National Finals of the Oxford Schools’ Debating Competition at the prestigious Oxford Union. Kingsbury High School was one of a very small number of state schools represented and the only one from the Brent and Harrow area. In debating, we are proud to make our claim of being the “finest for miles around”. The girls represented the school with distinction, having beaten first-class opposition in the regional round at Woodside High School to get to the national finals. Over a thousand schools had been knocked out on the way to the finals, which indicates the scale of this achievement. Sara is hoping to repeat this success during her years in the Sixth Form.

Oxford Schools’ Debating Competition

Oxford Schools’ Debating Competition at the prestigious Oxford Union. Photograph by Mr Senior

In addition to this achievement, the Sixth Form fielded five delegations (21 students) at the annual City of London School Model United Nations to compete against some well- known grammar and independent schools from in and around London. All performed brilliantly on the day but special congratulations are reserved for the efforts of Hadi Hijazi and Mahima Vekaria, both Year 12, for their excellent contributions to committees, and to Dhruv Sharan (Year 12) and Iman Mohamed (Year 13) for attaining ‘Highly Commended Delegate’ Awards.

City of London School Model United Nations.

City of London School Model United Nations. Photograph by Hadi Hijazi.

In public speaking, the school hosted the Jack Petchey Speaking Competition and our speakers, both in Year 10, were inspirational to watch: well done to Vinitha Vasantharajah, who set the standard for the evening with a fantastic opening speech, and to Hassan Naima, a prize-winner on the night, for his passionate oratory.

Kingsbury High School hosted the Jack Petchey Speaking Competition. Photograph by Camille Shah

Kingsbury High School hosted the Jack Petchey Speaking Competition. Photograph by Camille Shah

The school provides for debating and public speaking opportunities across the age range, from Year 7 through to Year 13, which includes Lower School and Upper School clubs, externally provided debating workshops (this year run by Debate Mate, Jack Petchey Speakout Challenge and the English Speaking Union), internal mentoring, and competitions. We have fielded teams this year in the Oxford Union, Cambridge Union and English Speaking Union Mace competitions. In the latter, Xane Mills, in Year 7, and Nouh El-Ouaz, in Year 8, deserve particular praise for thoughtful points made in the floor debate at Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Boys in Elstree.

Thank you to the debating and public speaking post-holders in K (Ms Michal Tumber and Mr Andrew Mitchell) and T (Ms Nicole Assaad); to Ms Annette Woodrow for organising the Jack Petchey opportunities; to SLT and Year Leaders for their keen support; to the student debating mentors in Years 11, 12 and 13; and finally to Sakthy Uthayakumar, Head Girl, for choosing to use her richly deserved Jack Petchey Award to fund a debating workshop for the benefit of Upper School students.

Kingsbury High School Debaters Claim Victory


We are delighted to announce that Iman Mohamed (Year 13) and Sara Dehvari (Year 11) will be representing Kingsbury High School in the National Finals of the Oxford Union Schools Debating Competition 2016, to be held on Saturday 12th March at the Oxford Union, the “world’s most prestigious debating society”.

On a great night for Kingsbury debating and public speaking at Woodside High School, in which all of our teams performed with distinction, Iman and Sara fought hard for their place against incredibly tough opposition. The school teams that went through with Kingsbury High to finals day were from Haberdasher Aske’s School for Boys, St Paul’s and Westminster.

The two motions, prepared in 15 minutes without any external aids, were among the most difficult our students have faced:

*This House believes that states with a history of racial segregation should set ethnic diversity quotas for their national sporting teams.

*This House would fund an identity change for prisoners who have served long sentences upon their release.

Our thanks go to all the members of staff who have supported debating this year and to Sakthy Uthayakumar (Year 13) for using her Jack Petchey Award to support debating in the Upper School (with thanks also to Annette Woodrow for facilitating this).