Sturminster Newton Sixth Form seal victory at Debating Matters South West Championship

On Thursday 23 January, a measured and resilient team from Sturminster Newton Sixth Form beat seven other schools from Dorset and surrounding counties to win the coveted Debating Matters South West trophy at an enthralling day of debate hosted by Sherborne Girls School. The hosts, who won the 2018/19 Championship, were narrowly beaten in a tense and hard-fought final where the teams grappled with the issues surrounding repatriation of cultural artefacts.

Sturminster Newton Sixth Form, winners of Debating Matters South West

Ultimately, however, it was Sturminster Newton who managed to persuade the judges, arguing calmly under pressure that the repatriation was a risky endeavour that raises troubling issues about the cultural ‘ownership’ of art. Sherborne Girls came within sight of victory after fiery speeches about the damage of colonialism and continued presence of colonialist ideas within Western museums, but were ultimately unable to fully sustain their arguments in the face of challenges by the judges, points from the floor, and their opposition.

The runners-up, Sherborne Girls School

The finalists had battled through a tough day of debate, arguing convincingly in debates on ‘Climate emergency: People should not have more than two children’, ‘Autonomous vehicles will make driving safer’, and ‘Childhood vaccinations should be compulsory’.

The event featured a team of distinguished judges – including, among others, former MP Sir Oliver Letwin, Sunday Times bestselling novelist Lulu Taylor, and author and former director of the Royal Collection, Sir Jonathan Marsden. They put the students under serious intellectual pressure to justify their positions. As ever at Debating Matters, the students relished the opportunity to show off their research and demonstrate their arguments.

Thomas Matthew of Exeter College, receiving the Best Individual prize from Geoff Kidder, chief executive of the boi charity

The judges also awarded Thomas Matthew of Exeter College the prize of ‘Best Individual’ for his excellent debating and penetrating questions, with Laurence Hayward of Sturminster Newton given ‘Highly Commended’ and Alice McCormick of Sherborne Girls School awarded ‘Commended’


1. For further information about the event, the Debating Matters competition or to request photos or interviews with students, teachers, judges and other participants, please contact Jacob Reynolds on 020 7269 9231 or email

2. The students were all Year 12 and 13 sixth-form students from:

  • Bryanston School
  • Exeter College
  • Gillingham School
  • Sherborne Girls School
  • Sherborne School
  • Sturminster Newton Sixth Form
  • The Gryphon School
  • The Purbeck School

3. Created in 2002, Debating Matters is a national sixth-form debating competition for students from around the UK. DM offers a fresh, accessible and engaging format for debating contemporary real-world issues, with an emphasis on substance, not just style of debating, and the importance of taking ideas seriously.

4. Debating Matters is a project of the boi charity. For more information on the charity, please visit

5. Follow Debating Matters on Twitter: @DebatingMatters