Maidstone Grammar and Barnard Castle schools Zoom into the Debating Matters history Books

Debating Matters concluded its first-ever online championships this autumn, with 12 schools battling it out over two competitions to grab the first-ever Debating Matters virtual crowns.

After a long and challenging year, it’s been a thrilling return to Debating Matters. Leaving behind the challenges of bubbles and isolation, 12 schools from around the country logged on to take part in two new-look Debating Matters Championships. The debates that usually characterise our championships – with audiences and peers from different schools all mixing – have not been able to take place in person this year, but we’re delighted to have made our own contribution to ensuring that intellectual life hasn’t been locked down!

Debating topics from digital privacy to colonial reparations, government intervention in healthy lifestyles to controversial monuments, the participating pupils demonstrated that there is a real appetite for considered, well-researched debate that is big on ideas and full of substance. Debating Matters Online has been a tonic in a time of media soundbites and an acrimonious culture war. Maidstone Grammar School, the winners of the November tournament, and Barnard Castle School, winners of the December tournament, demonstrated admirable intellectual courage and will justly be recorded as the first schools to win one of the new Online Championships.

To get there, they had to see off some seriously challenging opposition. Maidstone Grammar narrowly beat Sherborne School for Girls in the final debate, after both schools topped their groups which included Cardiff Sixth Form College, Cirencester College, Exeter College and Richmond upon Thames College. There were a number of exceptional individuals who consistently asked thoughtful and difficult questions, with Ellie Breeze of Maidstone Grammar School taking the coveted Best Individual award and Bill Chen of Cardiff Sixth Form College and Alice McCormick of Sherborne Girls winning the Highly Commended and Commended prizes respectively.

Barnard Castle also had some tough competition in the December Championship. In the final debate of the Championship they beat a spirited team from Queen Mary’s College by successfully arguing in favour of reparations to former colonies. Both teams came top of their groups, which included excellent teams from Burgate School, The Kingston Academy, Tarporley High School and Truro School. The Best Individual from the competition went to Vato Vepkhvadze of Barnard Castle, with Tessa Lovatt of Burgate winning Highly Commended and Adam Cramer of Queen Mary’s College winning the Commended prize.

All of the individual winners, as well as the winning schools and runners up, came away with excellent prizes courtesy of Hodder Education, Prospect Magazine and Oxford University Press.

No Debating Matters Championship would be complete without a host of exceptional judges, coming from all walks of life, to put students on the spot and substantiate their arguments. Debating Matters would like to thank them all for their brilliant contributions and giving up their time to ensure that young people have the opportunity to debate some of the most pressing issues facing society.

Whilst adapting to the new online format has not been without its challenges, it is a huge credit to the judges, pupils and teachers that the quality of the two tournaments has been exceptionally high, with genuinely thrilling debates in every group. Aided by the Debating Matters Topic Guides – a great introduction to the issues complete with a list of recommended readings and news items – the pupils took the ideas seriously and relished the ‘substance over style’ format that Debating Matters offers.

As we come to the end of a unique and often difficult year, Debating Matters is delighted that these championships have provided a ray of intellectual sunshine – and look forward to hosting several more in the New Year before, we hope, returning to in-person tournaments!


It has been a tough year for all of us, but especially for charities like ours. We are desperate to carry on providing the intellectual platform to the next generation, but we need your help.

If you know a business or organisation who wants to support our project of engaging young people in the world of ideas, please put us in touch with them. We love speaking to people from corporates, local governments, and other charities who share our passion for debate and ideas.

If you would like to donate prizes to the winning schools and best individuals, do let us know.

If you support our work and want to make sure it continues, you can donate to the boi charity which runs Debating Matters
. Every penny really does help and if you can arrange a regular donation then you can put Debating Matters on a secure footing.

If you work at a school or venue and want to host Debating Matters when in person events resume, please get in touch. We’d be delighted to work with you or your partners to bring Debating Matters back to real-life events.