On January 26th, Runnymede celebrated its Founder’s Day, paying tribute to Mr Arthur Powell OBE and his wife Julia, who founded the school in 1967.
The annual Founder’s Debate was duly held in the Julia Powell Building, with Years 7 to 9 coming to watch six talented sixth formers show off their debating and presentational skills.
The “balloon debate” format worked brilliantly, with the audience asked to imagine that six famous figures were in a rapidly sinking hot-air balloon. They then each argued why they should be allowed to stay in the balloon, before all but one would be thrown over the side!
We heard well-researched and impassioned speeches from all six participants, who represented some of the most confident and committed members of the sixth form. The Head Boy, Rafa S, argued as Abraham Lincoln, using his Emancipation Proclamation which freed 4 million enslaved people as incontrovertible evidence for his impact on the world. Kyra M then spoke as Gertrude B. Elion, a twentieth-century American pharmacologist whose research led to treatments for cancer, HIV and hepatitis, amongst many other medical conditions. The Head Girl, Isabela M, portrayed William Shakespeare, asking the audience to remember the Bard’s profound influence on language, culture and human joy.
We were introduced to another woman scientist by Sofia P, who conveyed the struggles of the pioneering German chemist Clara Immerwahr in the face of her husband’s and society’s cruelties. Then Micaela G powerfully told the story of Malala Yousafzai, reminding the audience of her resilience and Nobel Prize-winning significance in the ongoing fight for women’s education. Finally, Sam P delivered a barnstorming speech as the German developer of the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg, suggesting that without his work nobody else on the stage would have been able to disseminate or even discover their ideas.
Mr Crumpton then chaired a question-and-answer session, during which the audience challenged the panelists on their claims, leading to a lively and provocative discussion which highlighted both the KS3 pupils’ engagement and the admirable debating skills of the sixth formers. Finally, when the audience were asked to vote for who should “survive”, it came down a near tie, with the winner Gertrude Elion just pipping Gutenburg at the post.
The event was unifying, enjoyable and intellectually stimulating; and therefore a fitting tribute to the founders and their vision for Runnymede College.