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.

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!

Barnard Castle take the crown in first Debating Matters Public Policy Championship

A brilliant series of performances gave Barnard Castle School the victory in a challenging week of online debate in Debating Matters’ first Public Policy Championships. It was a fantastic series of debates over the week, showcasing a range of new Debating Matters Topic Guides and a renewed focus on real-world policy discussions.

Students debated a range of contemporary issues, from whether vaccine passports benefit society to whether the UK should reduce its foreign aid budget, whether the government should intervene to discourage unhealthy lifestyles and whether monuments to controversial figures should be torn down.

In all cases, the debates were hard-fought with the schools demonstrating their research and carefully crafted arguments. There was a hard battle for victory in each of the discussions, with the winners being those who impressed the judges – and stood up to their questioning – by driving home arguments gleaned from the extensive resources available in the new Topic Guides.

It was a feisty team from Burnley College who made it through to the final, but they were narrowly beaten by Barnard Castle, who managed to convince the judges that removing controversial monuments did more to erase the past than come to terms with it. Burnley, however, gave a great account of themselves, and impressed in their victories over Havering Sixth Form College and Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Faversham in the group stages. Barnard Castle had battled their way through debates against The Ecclesbourne School and Queen Mary’s College, all of whom put up stiff resistance.

As ever, each of the schools were put under pressure by panels of expert judges, who encouraged the pupils to further develop their arguments and think quickly on their feet. Debating Matters offers thanks to all those judges who volunteered their time to help develop the next generation of young minds.

In addition to the prizes for the winner and runners-up teams, Debating Matters was delighted to award prizes for the top three ‘best individuals’ who had impressed the judges throughout the competition with consistently great questions. Winning the Commended (third place) prize was Isabelle Passmore from Burnley College, and the Highly Commended (second place) prize was Tadgh Kerin from Havering College. But the Best Individual from the tournament was Anna Coyle of the victorious Barnard Castle, as she seriously impressed the judges with her intellectual nimbleness and range of arguments.

In addition to the three prize winners, the judges were very keen to ensure that the wide variety of great contributions were acknowledged, which meant ‘honourable mentions’ were given to: Isaac Tompkinson, Katie Skelton and Pandora Deaville from The Ecclesbourne School; Jamie Spice and Emily Jack of Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Faversham; Megan Lucas of Burnley College; and Ella Thomas and Adam Cramer of Queen Mary’s College.

The Debating Matters Public Policy Championships will return very soon to offer the opportunity for a fresh set of young people to battle it out over important public debates confronting society.

Announcing the Debating Matters Public Policy Championships!

Debating Matters is delighted to announce its next three championship events. As ever, these championships will see schools from around the country take on their peers in a series of debates overseen by panels of eminent judges. 

At the heart of the championships, as always, will be Debating Matters unique brand of ‘substance over style’ debating, the unparalleled interaction between judges and debaters, plenty of audience involvement, and a commitment to taking ideas seriously. 

Debating Matters has always prided itself on encouraging young people to dig into the complex debates at the heart of contemporary discussions. That’s why we’re delighted that these next three championship events will all have a specific focus on public policy issues, from whether the foreign aid budget should be cut to whether social media sites should clamp down on disinformation, whether controversial statues should be removed or whether we need a universal basic income in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

“We’re thrilled to be working on this unique set of championships thanks to the support of PERT. Seeing young people explore ideas and develop their arguments is one of the great privileges of Debating Matters. As ever, we can’t wait to bring Debating Matters’ brand of tough, respectful and intellectually adventurous discussion to schools right across the country.”
Geoff Kidder, chief executive, boi charity

These issues and more will feature in a new series of topic guides, written specifically with a public policy focus which will have young people debating some of the key contemporary issues of the day. 

In addition to arguing their side of the motion, competitors will have the opportunity to record their own opinions on the topics under discussion, and discuss how their opinions of the issues changed as they went through the process of preparing for the debate. Debating Matters will be giving the competitors the chance to have their say and get involved in a project which seeks to understand how young people think about contemporary issues. 

Debating Matters is delighted that this series of Public Policy Championships is supported by the Politics and Economics Research Trust (PERT). 

If you are a teacher, student or potential judge who wants to get involved, please email Mo Lovatt at

For press or other public enquiries, email Jacob Reynolds at

Debating Matters returns to Berlin and Humboldt Gymnasium emerge victors

Debating Matters’ unique online championships made a virtual stop in Berlin for a series of high-quality and challenging debates, with the Humboldt Gymnasium beating five other schools from around Berlin to become the Debating Matters Online Berlin Champions.

The championship saw the teams tackle issues such as whether governments should intervene to improve unhealthy lifestyles, whether populism is a threat to democracy, and whether privacy is outdated in the digital age.

After the teams tackled these debates in the group stages, it was Hans Carossa Gymnasium and Humboldt Gymnasium who emerged as the strongest two teams and so progressed to the final to debate whether monuments to controversial historical figures should remain. It was a very hard-fought debate, with many excellent contributions from the floor. too, as representatives from all six schools returned for the final to test their ideas and improve their arguments. However, it was the team from Humboldt Gymnasium who emerged as victors.

In addition to the prizes for the winner and runners-up teams, Debating Matters was delighted to award prizes for the top three ‘best individuals’ who had impressed the judges throughout the competition with consistently great questions. Winning the Commended (third place) prize was Victoria Santos Reschke from Schadow Gymnasium, and the Highly Commended (second place) prize was Petar Lolovic from Gottfried Keller Gymnasium. But the Best Individual from the tournament was Diane Langeloh from Humboldt Gymnasium.

The range of contributions really highlighted the excellent standard of debate, and students from all schools taking part – Bertha von Suttner Gymnasium, Gottfried Keller Gymnasium, Hans Carossa Gymnasium, Leibniz Gymnasium, Schadow Gymnasium as well of course as the winners, Humboldt Gymnasium – deserve praise.

Indeed, we hope to welcome any interested students from the day to the Debating Matters Alumni Network, as a way to stay in touch with and stay involved in the competition. We hope to see some of the pupils as future chairs and judges!

Debating Matters has always felt honoured to work with the Freiblickinstitut to bring the competition to Germany, and even if we may have been joining our colleagues in Berlin virtually, the chance to meet minds across the continent is always hugely appreciated, so we thank the Freiblickinstitut for their hard work and commitment.

Debating Matters will be continuing its online championships for a little longer yet, but we look forward to resuming events in person, in line with government guidance, at the earliest opportunity.

The Ecclesbourne School power through as Debating Matters Online Champions for January!

The third Debating Matters Online Championship ends with Ecclesbourne victorious

Six schools from around the country spent much of January thinking hard about and debating some of the key questions of our time. With pandemic restrictions still in place, Debating Matters was delighted to continue to jump online to offer its unique approach to schools’ debating. 

After a hard fought competition, with superb performances from both teams, it was The Ecclesbourne School who ended up champions, beating Gosforth Academy in an exceptional final where Ecclesbourne defended the motion ‘Western museums should repatriate cultural artefacts’. 

The competition saw The Ecclesbourne School win their group stage debates against University Technical College Norfolk and Havering College, with Gosforth Academy likewise topping their group which contained Oundle School and St John Rigby College. All six schools fielded excellent teams with spirited performances from all debaters. It was clear from the very beginning of the tournament that debaters had spent their time with the Debating Matters Topic Guides, reading through the introductory essays produced by the boi charity and delving into the further reading. 

Indeed, such was the quality on offer that many of the debates finished as split decisions from the judging panels, which, as ever in Debating Matters, consisted of three eminent individuals from the arts, politics, business and the media. Debating Matters is extremely grateful for their involvement. 

Given the wide variety of excellent points being made throughout the tournament, Debating Matters was delighted to recognise a number of individuals in the prize giving. Adam Cassidy of Gosforth Academy took the Commended prize and Ruby Rowlands of The Ecclesbourne School won Highly Commended. However, it was Lyra Christie of Gosforth Academy who took the highly coveted Best Individual prize, after impressing in her group stage debate and her excellent and thoughtful performance in the final. In addition, Amelie Holtby of Oundle School, Syd Orchard of Havering Sixth Form College, Ornella Drake of University Technical College Norfolk and Kieran Elison from St John Rigby College also all won honourable mentions for their great points and good research. 

Debating Matters often refers to the teachers as the true ‘unsung heroes’ of the competition, as they spend significant amounts of time preparing their pupils and encouraging them to delve deeply into the subjects. As ever, we thank all the teachers for their time and dedication, especially under the current circumstances. 

Louise Dawson, the teacher from The Ecclesbourne School, had this to say in reaction to their victory: 

“We are in a state of shock! Everyone in the team has been in touch to say how much they enjoyed the whole experience. They worked so hard and I am very proud of them. We entered the competition with no expectations of doing anything more than taking part. We never expected to get this far let alone win. The students have learned so much and greatly appreciated the respect the judges have shown through their tough questioning. The students keep asking me: what next? It is no exaggeration to say that Debating Matters has literally changed their lives. This has been the best thing in a dark time.”

Similarly, Robert MacDonald of Oundle School, who’s team only just missed out on reaching the final, reacted:

“Debating Matters was very welcoming. It is a very professional competition yet very accessible to all, and our pupils were well signposted towards what they would need to do, whilst also treated as mature debaters.”

To find out how to get involved in future competitions, please email Mo Lovatt

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.  

Launching the Debating Matters Online Championship

Throughout the pandemic, we at Debating Matters have strived to support teachers and pupils through the challenges and keep debate alive. Earlier in the year, we took Debating Matters Online, running several online debates between schools all around the UK. With restrictions on social events set to continue, we’re launching two initiatives to keep debate alive.

First, we are launching our first ever Debating Matters Online Championship.

We’re now recruiting for 6-8 school teams to take part in the first championship, which will be held over a period of two weeks after the October half term (exact dates TBC). Each team will have a minimum of two debates, and if they beat the other teams in their group they will progress to our first ever online final.

As ever, teams will be put on the spot by panels of distinguished judges, and a team of individual judges will be watching all the online debates to identify talented individuals. Schools will be encouraged to have supporters log on and participate by asking probing questions. In true Debating Matters style, the winning and runners-up team, as well as three top individuals, will come away with great prizes from our partners.

If you would like to register your interest, please email Mo Lovatt at stating when your school would be available to take part (during school hours or after school). A draw will be made and schools notified in the coming weeks whether they have been selected. We anticipate that with strong demand, Debating Matters will explore holding further online championships.

Second, where possible, we’d like to help schools new to debating by offering debate training and workshops.

Either in person or via zoom, we’d love to help get debate started in your school. We can offer packages to help students to construct arguments, get a debating society set up, and help pupils and teachers learn how to chair and judge the debates. We are offering these sessions at cost on a charitable basis to schools who need the help.

If you would like to hear more, please get in touch with us by emailing

Debating Matters went online!

To help keep students engaged and support teachers with something exciting for their pupils to do, we took Debating Matters Online during the coronavirus lockdown.

The response we received from teachers, judges and Debating Matters alumni was hugely encouraging. We knew that Debating Matters has a wide network of supporters and all of your messages and offers of support were hugely appreciated (especially those – schools or judges – that we haven’t yet been able to involve!).

In the past weeks, we’ve engaged dozens of students, judges and teachers across six showcase online debates – read about them in detail here. We’ve seen cracking debates take place on everything from whether ‘Social media sites should filter out fake news‘ to whether ‘Britain should pay reparations for its colonial past‘. Many of the debates have taken on a new colour from the coronavirus crisis – the topic on compulsory vaccinations is just one example – but it has also been important to remind ourselves that as important as coronavirus is, there are a host of other moral, political and scientific questions that we all need to interrogate.

As well as getting to grips with important contemporary issues, and keeping intellects engaged whilst we follow social distancing, Debating Matters Online has given many pupils, teacher and professionals a reminder of the importance of meeting minds and forging social connections. In fact, we’ve been able to break down distance barriers like never before: whether its schools from London and Derry debating each other, alumni from Berlin joining in the conversation, or judges zooming in from Washington DC.

We’ll soon be sharing some video-snippets of how it all went down, but for now, we want to thank everyone who took part, and congratulate the winners: Cardiff Sixth Form College, Havering College, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Exeter College, Thornhill College Derry, and St Edward’s School Oxford. Likewise, the high standard of the debates meant that the judges had a series of very tough choices, and so we also want to send our commiserations to those teams who were just pipped to the post: Cirencester College, Magdalen College School, Queens School Bushey, East London Science School, and Durham High School for Girls.

Like many, we are anticipating that schools will be returning soon, and so schools will be able to take debate into the classrooms again. But until then, if there are any schools still eager to participate in DM Online, please do get in touch with Jacob Reynolds

Finally, a short plea from us. At the boi charity, we haven’t gone into furlough. In fact, we’ve been as busy as ever organising debates and preparing for online events. So if you would like to show your appreciation and help out a good cause, please consider donating to the boi charity.

DM Online: How to keep debating during the lockdown

We’re delighted to announce the launch of Debating Matters Online – our contribution to keeping debate alive during these difficult times. 

During the lockdown, its important that everyone does their bit to support one another and find new ways to keep social isolation at bay. That’s why we wanted to take Debating Matters Online, and provide materials to support teachers or parents who want to keep pupils intellectually engaged during the lockdown.

After a successful pilot debate (which you can watch here), we are making the full how-to guide available for teachers, students, and anyone interested in keeping debate alive. You can use it to organise your own debates.

You can find the guide on our website here. 

Alongside this guide, which anyone can use, the Debating Matters team will be organising a number of DM Online debates – we’ll invite judges, chair the debate, and match up interested schools to debate against each other. If you would like to take part, please email

Humboldt Gymnasium clinch victory at Debating Matters Berlin 2020

A thoughtful and determined team from Humboldt Gymnasium beat eleven other schools from around Berlin to win the coveted Debating Matters Berlin trophy at an essential day of debate hosted by University of Applied Sciences Europe (UE) and supported by Freiblickinstitut. In a challenging and at times charged final on whether Germany should pay reparations for its colonial past, Humboldt, arguing in favour, triumphed over Lessing Gymnasium.

Humboldt Gymnasium, the winners of Debating Matters Berlin 2020

Lessing Gymnasium argued persuasively throughout the day, impressing with their intellectual depth as they won their way through debates on whether people should have fewer children to solve the climate emergency and whether social egg freezing empowers women. They then won their semi-final against Paulsen Gymnasium, arguing against mandatory vaccinations for children, in which they memorably cited the German Grundgesetz (‘basic law’) in defence of their case.

However, it was Humboldt who got the better of the arguments in a cracking final debate, with their team arguing passionately that Germany has a moral obligation to provide reparations to former colonies, citing the importance of Germany’s post-war reparations to Jews in Israel as a model.

The event was hosted at UE’s Berlin campus, and judges from the University joined others from around Berlin to put students on the spot to develop and justify their arguments. Students were warmly received into the University as the valuable partnership between Debating Matters and UE gave German pupils an opportunity to enter into the spirit of the unique Debating Matters format. Similarly, Freiblickinstitut provided invaluable support to the competition and have been a longstanding champion of Debating Matters and its ethos of open debate.

The judges awarded Giulio Polisi of Lessing Gymnasium the coveted Best Individual prize for his intellectual breadth and consistently excellent panel performances, with Federica Ballardini taking the Highly Commended prize in second place and Jakob von Bullion with the Commended prize.

Clockwise from top, the Best Individual Guilio Polisi, Highly Commended Federica Ballardini and Commended Jakob von Bullion receiving their prizes from Professor Filipe de Castro Soeiro


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 from:

  • Bertha-von-Suttner-Gymnasium
  • Eckener-Gymnasium
  • Gottfried-Keller-Gymnasium
  • Gymnasium Steglitz
  • Hans-Carossa-Gymnasium
  • Humboldt-Gymnasium
  • Leibniz-Gymnasium
  • Lessing-Gymnasium
  • Paulsen-Gymnasium
  • Schadow-Gymnasium
  • Werner-von-Siemens-Gymnasium
  • Wilma-Rudolph-Oberschule

Created in 2002, Debating Matters is a UK-based debating competition. 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.

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

Follow Debating Matters on Twitter: @DebatingMatters

For further information about the competition, visit

For further information about Freiblickinstitut, visit