Demanding debates and a debut winner: Bacup & Rawtenstall Grammar School and Springwood High School take the final crowns of the year

A fitting way to approach the end of a challenging but inspiring academic year

It has been an eventful academic year as Debating Matters has moved our unique format online to provide a much-needed dose of public-spirited debate and discussion in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The most recent of our online championships provided a fantastic illustration of how essential Debating Matters can be, and gave a great justification for the work done to make sure Debating Matters can thrive online.

It was also a great demonstration of how the Debating Matters format allows new schools to thrive, with both Springwood High School making their debut in the competition but managing to come away with the crown. Bacup & Rawtenstall, winning with a unique approach, also demonstrated another Debating Matters ideal: “Debating Matters because ideas matter”.

Of course, a debate needs two sides and the June’s other finalist, Invicta Grammar School, along with July’s runner up Ysgol Gyfun Plasmawr, showed a great range of arguments as they beat other schools to make it through to the final. Credit also to all the schools competing in our final two championships: Oundle School, The Kingston Academy, The Burgate School and Sixth Form, and St George’s College, Weybridge – in June – and Cirencester College, Richmond upon Thames College, Jersey School for Girls, and John Hampden Grammar School in July. 

If the Debating Matters Online format proved itself towards the beginning of the academic year, where Maidstone Grammar School and Barnard Castle School won the first two championships, as we approached the end the online format has only become more polished, and our new series of Public Policy Championships have given schools and colleges the chance to delve into pressing cultural, scientific and social issues.

For these championships, it was great to release a new and newly updated range of the famed Debating Matters topic guides, covering topical issues such as whether governments should impose extra duties on Universities to uphold free speech, if vaccine passports will benefit societyif the UK should reduce the foreign aid budget, what should be done with controversial statues and contested museum artefacts, whether UBI is a solution to social and economic problems, and many more

We offer our thanks to the Politics and Economics Research Trust (PERT) for their support of these Public Policy Championships. We knew from the first of these championships, held earlier in the year, how vital it is to give pupils the chance to debate these pressing public policy issues and June’s championship has proven this again.

Many pupils stood out in these debates, and came away with prizes generously donated by organisations such as Hodder Education, Prospect Magazine, Oxford University Press, and the Academy of Ideas. Over the past year, as society has faced considerable challenges, the support of these organisations has been more important than ever and Debating Matters offers thanks for their generous support.

The students getting their hands on individual prizes were, for the July competition, Cindy Igeme of Richmond upon Thames College who won ‘Commended’, Katie Mutyambizi of Ysgol Gyfun Plasmawr, who won ‘Highly Commended’, and the ‘Best Individual’ of the competition went to Zara Bek from winning school Springwood High School. In June, the winners were Niamh Miller from The Burgate School who won ‘Commended’, Asher Ghafoor from Bacup and Rawstenstall, who won ‘Highly Commended’, and the ‘Best Individual’ of the competition went to Annie from Invicta Grammar school.

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Whilst Debating Matters relished the chance to take the format online, allowing schools from around the country to debate each other, and allowing us to once again bring the format to Germany for this year’s Debating Matters Berlin, the year has presented significant challenges for schools. That’s why we want to recognise the hard work and dedication of teachers up and down the country who have responded to these challenges with passion and inspiration.

However, Debating Matters – like many pupils, teachers, parents and others – certainly looks forward to when schools are able to return to normal and in-person Debating Matters Championships can return!