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Public Speaking & Debating

Tara has a strong tradition of Debating and Public Speaking. The girls develop their persuasive, research and team work skills in order to enhance their confidence and knowledge of current affairs. These skills are valuable not only in various competitions, but for all subjects and life beyond school. Debating and public speaking workshops are also run throughout the year.

Junior School


Talkfest is an annual institution in the Junior School – a yearly opportunity for the girls to learn more about the craft of public speaking in a practical and engaging way. Public presentations are a necessary and exciting part of school life, university and work responsibilities, and competence in public speaking is vital to student success in and out of the classroom.

Talkfest lasts an entire term. During this time, public speaking skills are the focus of classroom language programs and provide opportunities for all girls to gain confidence and to communicate their ideas effectively to an audience. Additionally, as we develop the IB Learner Profile within our School community, Talkfest will help us all become courageous, knowledgeable, open-minded, inquirers, caring, balanced, thinkers, communicators, principled and reflective. 

Talkfest enables girls from Kindergarten to Year 6 to:

  • Develop confidence, fluency and ability to respond spontaneously
  • Learn to order their thoughts and think logically
  • Develop lateral thinking and imagination
  • Learn how to maintain the interest of the audience
  • Learn effective communication skills and the use of voice

The Talkfest program seeks to introduce girls to three important aspects of public speaking:

  • Planning the Speech (consider the purpose and the audience and the information needed)
  • Structuring the Speech (introduction, development, conclusion)
  • Presenting the Speech including:
  • Gesture and stance, facial expression, eye contact, use of palm cards
  • Speed of delivery, volume, pause, varying tone, clarity
  • Grammar and pronunciation, vocabulary

During Talkfest, an additional element for Years 3 to 6 is the skill of impromptu speaking. Talking ‘on your feet’ is a much valued 21st century skill – being faced with a topic or issue and having the ability to deconstruct it in a way that engages or persuades an audience. The girls learn different strategies for achieving this including approaching the topic using the following strategies:

SCG – looking at the topic from the perspective of self, then community or country, then finally, globally.
PIN – looking at the positives, then develop that into something interesting, then finally something negative
PPF – considering your topic from the perspective of the past, then the present, then finally, the future.

Debating in Junior School

Girls in Years 5 and 6 participate in a Debating Preparation Day where they learn about the intricacies of forming an argument, sustaining that argument across several speakers, and responding to counter arguments offered by the opposing team. As a result of this day, girls have an intimate appreciation for debating and can then nominate to join one of the two Stage 3 debating teams. These teams participate in the IPSHA Friday Afternoon Debating program, culminating in the annual IPSHA Debating Gala Day and IPSHA Speakers’ Challenge. 

Debating requires more than just the ability to argue. It also teaches the girls to be responsible, to meet deadlines, to be collaborative and interested in the world around them. Through debating girls learn to truly listen, and in doing so, comprehend someone else’s position even if it is ultimately to refute their arguments. Debating requires the girls to consider a range of perspectives on an issue which must be evaluated according to evidence. This is especially challenging when that perspective is not your own! 

Our teams meet weekly with experienced teachers, to workshop and develop ideas and approaches. 

More opportunities with public speaking in Junior School are available through the Tara Enrichment Centre.  

Senior School 

Debating in Senior School

Public Speaking Competitions and events include Archdale (the main competition of the year), Festival of Speech, Inter House Debating, History Debating, Macquarie School’s Cup and MUNA (Model United Nations). 


Team trials for Years 7 – 11 for the Archdale Competition take place during Term 1. Coaching sessions are required and there is a fee for this. These take place at flexible times suitable to coaches and the girls. Our debating coaches consist of previous Tara girls and University debaters.

Team Selection Process – A trial is held for each year group on one afternoon from 3:30 – 5:30pm. The girls sign up and are given a debate topic and impromptu speaking topic on the day of the trial. They are given one hour to prepare for their debate and five minutes to prepare for their impromptu speech. The girls then debate and speak in front of some coaches. The coaches assess each girl’s strengths and weaknesses as a speaker. The coaches then consult with the Debating Coordinator in order to select and finalise the four best girls in each team. There are two teams of four in Years 7 and 8, and one team of four in Years 9 – 11. Girls who do not make the final cut for a team are invited to be reserves when required and to participate in House Debating, social debating or any other competitions throughout the year.

MUNA Model United Nations Assembly

Held one weekend in May at a nominated District High School.

This is a competition run by various Rotary Club Districts. It allows students to have an opportunity to meet students from a variety of schools and to enhance their team work skills. Each school can enter up to two teams of three students. Each team is given a country from the United Nations and various topics that will be discussed on the day of the competition. The girls work through each issue and receive some coaching to help with their speaking skills. No previous public speaking is required. The teams are selected based on enthusiasm and availability.

The girls dress in their nation’s national costume on the days of the competition and are called to speak about, discuss and contest various topics that they have prepared.

Macquarie Schools’ Cup 

Junior and Senior teams are selected based on interest and experience. The girls go to Macquarie University for a day and compete against a variety of different schools. They compete in three rounds on various topics.

Inter House Debating Competition

Girls from each house in Years 7 – 11 are selected to debate on popular culture topics in order to win points and trophies for their house. Heats for each house are run at lunch time during Term 3. During the final, each year group winner receives a trophy and then each house with the most points based on their places receives a shield.

History Debating

This is available for Year 10 and Year 11 girls. It is organised through the History Department and based on the History Curriculum.

The University of Sydney NSW Schools Chinese Debating Competition 

This competition is run by The University of Sydney and is open to students from Years 9 – 12. Students sign up and form a team to debate in either Cantonese or Mandarin. They attend a training session once a week at Tara before or after school, as well as three compulsory debating rounds at Sydney University on allocated Saturday afternoons. This competition takes place from April – May. 

Friday Evening Debating

This competition takes place on Friday evenings in Term 1. There are two Year 7, 8 and Senior teams, as well as one Year 9 and one Year 10 team. The debates take place on Friday evenings from 5:45pm at Tara and various other schools, including co–educational, Independent and Selective. Coaching sessions take place once or twice a week, either before or after school. 

Public Speaking Competitions and events include Rotary Youth Speaker, Sydney Morning Herald Youth Speaker of the Year, OZ Speak, MUNA (Model United Nations) and Festival of Speech.

Rostrum, Rotary and NSW Plain Speaking Competitions

Tara girls are selected based on interest/experience. They compete at various schools either during school or after school hours. These competitions require the girls to prepare one speech and then have five minutes to prepare impromptu speeches. There is a preliminary round and then semi - final and final stages. 

Festival of Speech

This allows girls to compete in the areas of current affairs, ethics, debating, drama, poetry and public speaking. Girls are selected based on interest and experience. The competition is held in Week 2 of Term 4 each year and is hosted by an Independent Girls’ School.

Tara Workshops

Tara also offers public speaking workshops and social debating. These are run by the Debating Prefect either after school or during lunch. Public Speaking Workshops also help Overseas students to enhance their English speaking and writing skills.

 More opportunities in Senior School with public speaking are available through the Tara Enrichment Centre

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