The Burgate School and Sixth Form return victorious from Debating Matters Southampton Championship

On Wednesday 5 February, a thoughtful and determined team from The Burgate School and Sixth Form beat seven other schools from the local area to win the coveted Debating Matters Southampton 2020 trophy at a stimulating day of debate hosted by Solent University and supported by NATS.

Burgate, Debating Matters stalwarts who were eager to win their first trophy, triumphed over King Edward VI School in a truly enlightening final on whether museums should repatriate colonial-era cultural artefacts.

The Burgate School and Sixth Form, the winners of Debating Matters Southampton

King Edward VI argued expansively throughout the day, impressing with their intellectual agility as they won their way through debates including mandatory vaccinations, corporate sponsorship of the arts, and whether people should have fewer children to solve the climate emergency.

The runners-up, King Edward VI School with Dr Brian McDonough, the sociology course leader, Solent University

However, it was Burgate who got the better of the arguments in an intense final debate, with their team arguing passionately that museums need to resist the politicisation of cultural objects and that claims about cultural ownership of objects are often tied up with a divisive identity politics.

The winning finalists from The Burgate School

The event was hosted at the inspiring Spark building at Solent University, with the university supplying several judges for the day who kept students on their toes throughout. Likewise, Debating Matters’ partners NATS – the UK’s leading provider of air traffic control services – contributed to the competition by sending individual and panel judges. This extensive interaction between partners, judges, and students constitutes one unique element of the Debating Matters competition, which puts students on the spot to develop and substantiate their arguments.

The judges awarded Joe Kirby of Bay House School & Sixth Form the prize of ‘Best Individual’ for his excellent debating and penetrating questions, with Samuel Alford Itchen Sixth Form College given ‘Highly Commended’ and Antonia Jones of Dauntsey’s School awarded ‘Commended’.

Joe Kirby of Bay House School & Sixth Form, receiving the Best Individual prize from Emma Lynch of NATS


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

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

  • Alton College
  • Bay House School
  • The Burgate School
  • Dauntsey’s School
  • Itchen Sixth Form College
  • King Edward VI School
  • New College Swindon
  • St Swithun’s School
  • The Purbeck School

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.