Aylesbury Grammar School wins the Debating Matters London Championship 2023!

Students from six UK schools gathered in the iconic Grade I listed building, 55 Broadway, in heart of Westminster on Thursday 6 July to compete in the Debating Matters London Championship 2023.

Free Speech was the theme of the Debating Matters London Champions 2023 as six schools from across London and the Home Counties came together at the iconic Grade I listed building of 55 Broadway. Co-hosted with Blue Orchid Hospitality the championship took place on Thursday 6 July this year. Students debated a range of topics focused on 21st Century issues surrounding free speech and open debate. Aylesbury Grammar SchoolHarris Academy ChobhamCardinal Newman Catholic SchoolThe Grey Coat HospitalOundle School and Richmond upon Thames College took part in a series of high-quality debates throughout the day. Judges from a range of sectors including Law & Politics, Art & the Media, Health, Sport and Education asked a series of pertinent questions of the students and pushed them to find their best argument.

First time DMers Aylesbury Grammar School (AGS) fought off fierce competition from the other five schools to become DM London Championship winners 2023, with AGS student Toby Webster taking home the prize for Best Individual debater. The Grey Coat Hospital (GCH) came in as runners up with student, Princetta Rachel, taking home the highly commended individual prize, whilst Joseph Burman of Cardinal Newman Catholic School (CNCS) received a commended individual prize.  A team of individual judges, looking out for outstanding individual contributions to the day of intense but stimulating debate awarded Honourable Mentions to Oscar Peck and Adam Mercier from AGS, Ruby Ager and Phoebe Korsell from GCH, Peyton Lewis-Williams from Richmond upon Thames College, Millie Balding from Oundle School, as well as Jess Ojo-Osagie and Erin George from CNCS.

Debating Matters provided me with an opportunity to dive deep into issues relevant to the world we live in today. Through high quality debate, we were able to explore these issues from lots of different viewpoints. – Finn, Year 12, CNCS.

On a day when oracy was top of the national news agenda it was great to see students debating with such passion, depth of understanding and respect for one another. If we want our students to reach adulthood capable of making informed decisions about where they stand on the most important issues of the day then there’s a good case for making every school a ‘Debating Matters’ school!
– Peter Shears, Senior Teacher, CNCS.

A full outline of the championship can be found here. We are grateful to our partners and prize sponsors.

Cancel culture comes for debate in schools

While school pupils are being admonished for ‘wrong-think’, Debating Matters provides a vital corrective: free, open and frank debate.

This news item was originally written as a guest post for the Academy of Ideas substack.

Earlier this year, when Debating Matters launched the 20 for 20 programme to celebrate its twentieth anniversary, the idea was to raise our profile, post-Covid, after a sustained period in which school debate had been severely restricted. We are now in full swing, having delivered 10 out of the 20 events so far.

Schools debating is precious and worth supporting. In the USA, however, it is under threat from cancel culture – and we cannot let that happen here.

This week, on her Substack, The Free Press, Bari Weiss published the second in a series of guest posts from a former US debate champion, James Fishback, on the hijacking of school debates in the US. Fishback notes that certain debate judges, particularly those with ‘an explicit left-wing bias’, have recently begun allowing their own personal opinions to cloud their ability to judge students objectively on the content and quality of their arguments.

Focusing most prominently on the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA), which was founded in 1925, Fishback highlights a range of cancel-culture techniques that have become commonplace amongst established debate judges.

Most notably, Fishback found, some judges have publicly stated they will ensure students lose their rounds if they argue ‘in favour of capitalism, or Israel, or the police’. They will also consider personal attacks by students on their opponents as valid – even allowing the publishing of social-media posts as evidence of ‘wrong-think’. In addition, judges have declared that using ‘gendered language’ or ‘micro-aggressions’ (even where it is difficult to provide evidence) will result in students losing their debate or being disqualified from the debate altogether. Such micro-aggressions, incidentally, might include ‘America is a melting pot’, ‘There is only one race, the human race’ and ‘The most qualified person should get the job’.

As one of the students interviewed for the piece rightly argues, this is ‘antithetical to what true open debate is’. Moreover, as Fishback notes, this type of behaviour drives students into self-censorship, narrows the parameters of the debate, and instils in students a fear about what can and can’t be said – ironically, all under the guise of creating a ‘safe space’.

Fishback’s exposé is just one of many stories emerging this year. The most notorious is the recent high-profile case at Rye College, which sparked a government investigation after it was reported a teacher verbally attacked two students for their views. The teacher was filmed telling them they were ‘despicable’ and should ‘go to a different school’ for stating their belief that gender is linked to biological sex. Young people are being told that ideas that were utterly uncontroversial until very recently are now verboten.

It’s difficult to comprehend how schools and debating organisations, whose job it is to provide students with a liberal education and support the free exchange of ideas have succumbed to this juvenile, cancel-culture phenomenon. Yet many students, teachers and others who believe in free speech have experienced this phenomenon, as I noted in my Letter on Liberty, Why Debating Matters.

This debate-suppressing attitude is the polar opposite of the ethos of Debating Matters. Our goal is to allow full, free and frank discussion on the big issues of our time. Thankfully, with the pandemic’s restrictions behind us, we’re delighted that, halfway through our twentieth-anniversary year, we’ve already hosted or taken part in 10 events as part of our 20 for 20 programme, with 10 more exciting events to come!

Earlier this year, we were approached by the Durham Union Society (DUS) and asked to host a sixth-form debating competition at DUS, home of Durham’s oldest and largest society, founded in 1842. DUS wanted to work with Debating Matters on its free-speech programme of events for the year. Concerned with the general narrowing of debate in universities, former DUS president Jordan Kiss, current president Adam Albazy and outreach officer Alex McDermott wanted to showcase the home of student debate in Durham and to encourage sixth formers to take part in an exchange of ideas in the splendid environment of the Debate Chamber on Palace Green.

On 8 June, we hosted a Free Speech Championship with students from across the North East. Eighty students, judges and teachers came together to take part in an intense but thrilling day of debate at the Debating Matters Durham Championship 2023, where students tackled such motions as ‘Billionaires owning media companies is bad for democracy, ‘Healthcare workers should not be allowed to strike’ and ‘The UK government should legalise commercial surrogacy’.

There was an exhilarating end to the day with a spirited debate between Grammar School at Leeds and Durham Sixth Form Centre discussing whether, indeed, ‘Cancel Culture is a threat to Free Speech’. After a valiantly-fought debate, the Durham school took home the champions’ title with one team member, Cameron Passey, awarded best individual debater, too.

Following that event, members of the Debating Matters team headed back down to London where DM alumni Tom Collyer and Ethan Green formed a team with me to take part in a ‘friendly’ competition with the 104 London Debaters. I’m delighted (and relieved) to say that we were triumphant!

We then hot-footed it to Berlin to co-host the Debating Matters Berlin Championship 2023 on 15 June. The competition saw 12 schools, 40 judges and 100s of students coming together in perhaps the most intense day of debate to date! It was a fabulous day, in which our German hosts – University of Europe for Applied Sciences, Berlin and Freiblickinstitut – supported us to provide a welcoming and genuinely open environment in which young German students could debate contemporary political and social issues. It’s our eighth time in Berlin and the testimonies we’re still receiving from judges, students and teachers remind us how many people do truly value the opportunity for a robust but civil exchange of ideas.

Our next Debating Matters competition once again focused on free-speech motions, taking place at an iconic building – 55 Broadway in Westminster – on Thursday 6 July. The Debating Matters London Championship 2023 was another exhilarating day to mark our twentieth-anniversary year with Aylesbury Grammar School taking home the coveted award of DM London Champions 2023 and Toby Webster of AGS being awarded Best Individual debater.

We are immensely proud that we continue to champion free speech and open debate in these increasingly censorious times and never tire of how much students truly appreciate the opportunity to get to grips with contemporary issues in a fast-paced, highly charged but civil environment. 

If you would like to support the work we do, you can do so by making an individual donation or offering us partner sponsorhip here.

Durham Union Society to host the Debating Matters Durham Championship 2023

On Thursday 8 June Durham Union Society will play host to the Debating Matters Durham Championship 2023. Students from North East schools will come together for a day of intense but thrilling debate as they take on issues such as, “Billionaires owning media companies is bad for democracy” and “Cancel Culture is a threat to freedom of speech”.

As ever, a panel of debate judges will put students to the test by asking a series of tough questions and pushing them to find their best arguments.  Drawn from across a range of sectors including business, science, academia, the arts and media, this year’s judges will include Eileen Perrie, Engagement & Programming Manager of Locomotion, Shildon, Professor Tim Luckhurst, Principal of SouthCollege, Durham University, Dr Caspar Hewett, lecturer in Civil Engineering at Newcastle University and BBC North East and Cumbria’s political editor, Richard Moss.

It is my immense privilege to host a Debating Matters competition in Durham for a day of thrilling debate! Debating is part of a tradition of free speech that our Society has proudly followed for over 180 years. I’m deeply honoured to share in this tradition with sixth-form students from the North East who I hope will gain not only valuable skills that benefit them for life, but wonderful memories too.

Adam Albazy, President of the Durham Union Society

This event is part of the Debating Matters 20 for 20 programme, which commemorates 20 years of the competition.

The competition is open to students aged 16 to 18 from North East schools and colleges. For more information about Debating Matters or to enter the competition, please visit the Debating Matters website or contact mo@ideasmatter.org.uk

The Burgate School wins the Debating Matters House of Lords Championship 2023!

Students from four UK schools gathered in the heart of Westminster on Friday 10 March to compete in the Debating Matters House of Lords Championship 2023. And what an inspiring day of debate it was!

Images © House of Lords 2023 / photography by Roger Harris.

The Burgate School took on competitors from three other schools and faced tough questions from judges and audience members to emerge as winners of the DM House of Lords Championship. 

The whole day was incredible. The venue was stunning and the fact that we, just a small school from the country, got to debate inside of the House of Lords, one of the most important places in the UK, was definitely one of the best times of my school career.
Ivan Godfree, student, Burgate School

Students from Burgate School and Richmond upon Thames College debate, ‘Skills Gap: too many people are going to university.’ Image © House of Lords 2023 / photography by Roger Harris.

Judges were drawn from across the House of Lords benches with peers from Labour, the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Crossbench peers joining professionals from law, economics, media, education and the charitable sector. Their role was to challenge students by asking tough questions, to push them to articulate their best arguments, and to provide feedback on how to develop and improve their debating skills in the future.

What stood out to me the most was the quality of debate from all participants. The topics were thought-provoking, making for some truly engaging discussions. The judges were extremely knowledgeable and provided insightful feedback that helped us all improve our skills. DM is an excellent opportunity to develop critical thinking skills, engage with important issues and meet new, insightful people!
Kiera Napier, student, Richmond upon Thames College (RUTC)

Baroness Chakrabarti judging the debate between Havering Sixth Form and Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, ‘Social egg freezing empowers women.’ Image © House of Lords 2023 / photography by Roger Harris.

Debating Matters aims to give young people the opportunity to discuss real-world issues by undertaking thorough research – including using our acclaimed Topic Guides and their own independent research – and by engaging in a robust but civil debate competition . They are encouraged to understand both sides of an argument, as well as the many shades of grey in between; to look at the wider context surrounding the debate and to reach for the philosophical dilemma at the heart of the issue.  It’s why DM has been called, ‘the toughest debating competition in the world!’

Ella Mulholland, from Havering, explains how the process is intellectually challenging from the outset:

My debate partner [Noor Ebrahim] and I had our own little debate in preparing for our debate, so I learnt a lot about the side I disagree with, and it actually changed my mind a bit although I still kept my position. It actually helps you grow your own side and you feel good about yourself because you know more things.
Ella Mulholland, student, Havering Sixth Form

As Ella’s comments show, although research and content-led argument is at the heart of DM, there is no substitute for debating an issue to really understand what you think, to open you up to new information and ideas and to consciously reflect on your own arguments.

Barrister Steven Barrett, one of our individual judges at the House of Lords, reflects on the process:

Judging is absolutely terrifying as there are a lot of very talented young people. What’s more, I’m supposed to just pick one for my honourable mention! But you get to see young people shining and showing their potential and you get to engage with interesting ideas and think matters through. That’s what debating is and why it matters. It is the process of thinking, of testing and improving your own thoughts. The skills these young people are developing are core skills to help them go on and succeed in life.
Steven Barrett, individual judge

Teams from Havering Sixth Form and Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School (QEGS) battled it out for a place in the final by debating ‘Social egg freezing empowers women‘ while students from Burgate School and Richmond upon Thames College tackled the motion: ‘Skills Gap: too many people are going to university‘.

The final saw the QEGS team argue ‘Tech companies should act to stop online misinformation‘ and they provided a strong defence of their position, drawing on research and making intelligent debate points. However, they were just pipped to the post by the team from Burgate who impressed the judges with their ability to continually think on their feet and to answer a range of tough questions.

The House of Lords was a grand setting for our trip, where the debating, with many superb debaters, was to such a high standard that I am amazed we won. The judges had such a variety of unique experiences that their insights, questions and feedback will greatly enhance future debates that we have. All the people there were thoughtful with interesting questions that opened up avenues of thought that we had not been prepared for. Just being able to have experienced it has been exhilarating and I hope this event keeps going so that more students can be enriched and challenged.
Ned Woodley, student, Burgate School

Audience questions for Burgate School and Richmond upon Thames College.
Image © House of Lords 2023 / photography by Roger Harris.

Well done to all competitors and especially to winners Burgate where student Thomas Florence also took home the ‘best individual’ prize.  Honourable mentions went to Ella Mulholland, Octavian Gopcalo of Havering; William Golding, Coco Rose Puren of Burgate; Charlotte Jack from QEGS and Cat Hay from RUTC.

As well as debating, students got to visit the House of Lords Chamber to hear part of the International Women’s Day debate and enjoyed lunch in the Cholmondeley Room overlooking the House of Lords terrace and the Thames. 

Students & judges had lunch in the Cholmondeley Room, attended a debate in the House of Lords Chamber and took in the surroundings of Westminster Hall. Images © House of Lords 2023 / photography by Roger Harris.

A special thank you goes to teachers Kasim Agpak, Evan Bailey, Tom Finn-Kelcey and Toby Marshall who encouraged their students to reach to their fullest potential:

The students are still buzzing and everyone here is so proud of them. Thank you so much for this opportunity. This was the best day in my teaching career and in addition to the students gaining from engaging with the main aim of the debating matters format this has been a life-changing experience in terms of confidence for our students over the years and of course at the House of Lords. You just never know how much they will step up and surprise themselves until they are one the stage.
Evan Bailey, teacher, Burgate School

Thanks to judges Steven Barrett, Tom Bewick, Baroness Bull, Baroness Chakrabarti, Tom Collyer, Lord Fox, Ethan Green, Timandra Harkness, Dervla Murphy, Hilary Salt, Jane Sandeman, Lord Sewell, Leo Villa and Martin Wright.

The event was supported by the House of Lords Engagement team and the Federation of Awarding Bodies, with Baroness Fox as the peer-sponsor of the event.  Prizes were provided by Hodder Education, Prospect, Academy of Ideas and the House of Lords.


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 Mo Lovatt at mo@ideasmatter.org.uk 

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. Follow Debating Matters on Twitter: @DebatingMatters

Debating Matters is a project of the Ideas Matter charity. For more information on the charity, please visit https://ideasmatter.org.uk/

For further information about the competition, visit www.debatingmatters.com

For further information about the House of Lords Engagement Programme, visit https://www.parliament.uk/business/lords/get-involved-with-the-lords/engagement-programme/

Inspired by Debating Matters

from Gujurat to Leeds… DM has been inspiring young people around the globe!

Debating Matters’ reach has extended further than Europe in the last two years. In 2020, former director of DM and current curriculum manager for Mathematics at MidKent College, Tony Gilland, developed a highly successful new pilot debating tournament – DMGBIN – for 16- to 18-year- old students in India and the UK which was inspired by his work at Debating Matters.

On Sunday 27th February this year, the final of the second DMGBIN tournament took place. Over four months 16 schools, eight from the UK and eight from India, battled it out for a place in the final debate. Each school competed in three debates over Zoom to win a place in the semi-finals and then the final of the tournament. This year’s finalists were newcomers Navrachana International School, from Gujarat in India and longstanding DM participants Oakwood Park Grammar School from Kent in the UK.

Joining DMGBIN at the final for the prize-giving ceremony was one of the founders of Debating Matters, Claire Fox, director of the Academy of Ideas and an independent peer in the UK’s House of Lords, and Geoff Kidder, CEO of the boi charity which currently hosts DM. It was an exciting occasion with a completely new debate motion and Topic Guide: ‘Restricting hate speech is more important than protecting freedom of speech’. The content of the debate was challenging for both teams as the context is quite distinct in each country. Communal and religious tensions in India give rise to significant concerns about the impact of hate speech which are not directly comparable to concerns in the UK. However, both teams did a fantastic job of demonstrating a solid familiarity with all the arguments and were insightful and forceful in their defence of the importance of free speech or in arguing for restrictions.

Throughout the whole DMGBIN tournament it has been especially rewarding to hear students get so much out of engaging with their peers in a completely different country, and about issues of importance or interest to them all, but often in very different contexts. As Izzy Ottembrait commented, ‘Debating with the teams from India provided a broadened world-wide perspective and it certainly made the debates more challenging due to the global examples and experiences used.

This was a perspective endorsed by Lily Rana, the teacher from Navrachana International School, who said her team ‘had a remarkably rewarding experience, particularly, in recognising the onus on youth in their role as global citizens.

At this year’s final, the judges took a long time to make their deliberations, a real testament to both teams but finally they came to a decision and awarded the win to Oakwood Park Grammar School who argued FOR the motion. Congratulations to Oakwood Park DMGBIN champions 2021/22!

Congratulations also go to Navrachana International School, runners up in their debut year of competing in Debating Matters.  The Best Individual prize was awarded to Ashwin Knight of Oakwood Park and the Highly Commended prize went to Ashvika Menon of Navrachana. The tournament was organised by volunteer DM supporters and we are grateful to all of them. To find out more about the competition email: tony.s.gilland@gmail.com or Follow DMGBIN on Twitter @dmgbin

A bit closer to home, the DM format returned to live action in Leeds in January of this year as the annual Yrs 10 & 11 debating competition run by The Leeds Salon in partnership with Switalskis Solicitors took place.

The Final of the competition was on Wednesday 30th March at Thackray Medical Museum between qualifying round winners Abbey Grange Academy, Carr Manor Community School and Outwood Grange Academy.

In a lively and competitive round-robin style format, each team played to their strengths across the six debates. The students demonstrated a good knowledge of the debate topics and how to defend their arguments. However, in the end, there can only be one winner so congratulations to Isabel Dixon-Hardy, Delphi Harrison, Abi Hector-Goma and Madeleine Wells from Abbey Grange CofE Academy who were declared 2022 champions by the judges!

Congratulations also to the three individual prize winners: Best Individual, Greta Hirschhorn-Nolan from Carr Manor Community School; Highly Commended Individual, Isabel Dixon-Hardy of Abbey Grange CofE Academy and Commended Individual Alhasan Ahmed of Outwood Grange Academy.

And grateful thanks to venue partners Thackray Medical Museum, as well as prize partners The University of Law (Leeds), and award-winning multi-media company, Tectonic Interactive.

From everyone at DM, congratulations to Paul Thomas, co-founder of The Leeds Salon for managing to organise yet another successful competition, engaging 14 to 16 years-olds in difficult contemporary issues such as “Tech companies should act to stop online misinformation”, “Technological progress will not solve society’s environmental issues”, and “Vaccine passports benefit society”  and very well done to all involved!

Spotlight on a DM Alumna: Julia Dannemann-Freitag

One of the stars of the first ever DM Berlin championship back in 2015 was Julia Dannemann-Freitag who is now a regular judge for the competition. Debating Matters caught up with Julia this year to ask her about her first experience of debating and why she continues to stay involved:

DM: Julia, it’s great to catch up with you. Can you remind us when and how you first became involved with DM?
JDF: Yes, it was in 2015, when Debating Matters was running a pilot programme in Berlin. I only found out about it because I ran into a friend of mine on the way out of the school building one day and she asked me whether I wanted to come along to a “debating club” she had heard her English teacher tell the class about that needed another person to fill in for someone who had dropped out last minute.
DM: And what do you remember about that first competition? Do you remember the motion for instance?

JDF: Well, it was a lot smaller scale than the competition has been recently. There were only six schools participating and the debates were being held in two rooms. My motion was on whether performance enhancing drugs should be used in sports (the first time I was seriously asked to defend a position I didn’t believe in) and I know I was up first and really quite nervous because I still viscerally remember my hand shaking so hard that it was hard to read my speech to begin with. Thankfully that all fell away quite quickly though as I got into the flow of the debate and I got a chance to enjoy myself.
DM: It’s great when that happens, when you overcome your nerves, I think a lot of debaters will relate to that! Did you learn anything from the experience and did DM inspire you or make you think about things in a different way? 
JDF: Debating Matters was my first real exposure to formal debating and as such I learnt quite a lot about formulating arguments effectively. For instance, how to research the topic of the motion, how to state my points in a concise way and how to see a topic from a perspective that isn’t mine. To get good at debating I also needed to learn not only how to tackle an opponent’s argument, but how to counter its strongest, best-stated form. All of these are skills that I’ve found rather important outside of debating too, as they improved my ability to effectively understand what others are saying and make me clearer when I respond.
DM: That’s really great to hear! And what are you up to these days?
JDF: My greatest interest is for the field of quantum gravity, which is why I’m now in my final year, studying for an MSc in physics with theoretical physics at Imperial College London.
DM: Wow, congratulations, that’s really impressive and an area of quantum physics we definitely need to understand more! We wish you luck in your final year.  But before we let you get back to your studies, can you leave us with one final point on why you think debating is important?
JDF: Maybe “important” is too pompous a way to put it, but I certainly think that the skills that it teaches can be very useful. Beyond that, having to defend opinions that aren’t your own can make it easier to see other people’s perspectives in the future. However, my main reason for doing it has always been that I find it very fun.
DM: Thank you Julia, it’s been a pleasure catching up with you.

Julia is an MSci student at Imperial College London where she studies physics with a concentration in theoretical physics. Her interests lie primarily in quantum gravity, particularly discrete approaches. Her master’s project is on the spectral geometry of causal sets. 

If you’re a DM alumnus or alumna we’d love to hear from you and what you’re up to right now.  Please get in touch and let us know your news by emailing mo@theboi.co.uk

Sabine Beppler-Spahl: on launching Debating Matters in Berlin

As Debating Matters returns from yet another fantastic championship in Berlin, we asked our lead German partner, Sabine Beppler-Spahl, what inspired her to bring the championship to Berlin.

“As chair of the Freiblickinstitute, whose purpose is to organise public discussion on political and scientific issues, I felt the chance to host Debating Matters in Berlin was an opportunity not to be missed! Although Britain has a long tradition of schools debates, in Germany debating societies are not as well established.  But there is taste for serious, content-based debating in this country too!

“As supporters of a liberal academic education we believed it was important to encourage students to learn the art of questioning, reasoning and debating – to remind ourselves that there is never only one way to look at an argument. Fact-checking has its place and abstract knowledge is important, but how far can they help us to understand the world?  If we really want to know why we believe what we do, we should allow our ideas to be challenged and be able to debate them robustly and civilly. 

“Freiblickinstitut has taken over the organisation of the competition on a voluntary basis. Many of its members have helped with the preparation of the debates, and on running the day itself. But DM Berlin has been successful also due to the support of many others – the team in Britain, the enthusiasm of teachers and judges, and several event partners such as HeGo Biotec, World and Press, and the UE University which has accommodated the championships and provided catering for the events.

“We use the DM Topic Guides as a basis for the debates but we adapt them to account for the specificities of the German situation. We debate in English (a real testament to the English teaching our schools!) and despite our initial worries about tackling such complex issues in a foreign language, participants have been highly motivated, well-prepared, and able to argue their case convincingly. As communications consultant and frequent DM judge, Phoebe Blackburn wrote on her LinkedIn blog:   

It was a pleasure to hear the genuine clash of ideas backed by thorough research and, crucially, sometimes if not always, interaction, re-adjustment, truly listening to an adverse opinion then, changing tack. Or standing by one’s argument, impassioned, with further evidence and debate.

“We at Freiblick believe it’s important to continue to host Debating Matters because every generation needs thinkers and questioners and we’re looking forward to the next Berlin Championship!”

Sabine Beppler-Spahl, chair Freiblickinstitute e.V.

Nelson-Mandela-Schule emerge victorious at the Debating Matters Berlin Championship 2022

An enthusiastic and well-researched team from Nelson-Mandela-Schule saw off competition from seven other Berlin schools this year to emerge as victors in the Debating Matters Berlin Championship 2022.

The team competed in three group-stage debates and, in the final, took on fellow group-stage winners Schadow-Gymnasium to argue against the motion “Tech companies should act to stop online misinformation”. Both teams were well-prepared and argued passionately for their side of the motion. That meant the panel of judges – Professor Stefan Chatrath, Professor Oleg Dik and DM alumnus Julia Dannemann-Freitag – had a tough job on their hands coming to a final decision! However, Nelson-Mandela-Schule eventually emerged victorious, rounding off an intellectually thrilling day of debate organised by Freiblickinstitut and hosted by University of Europe for Applied Sciences (UE) on its Berlin Campus.

Judges Stefan Chatrath & Julia Dannemann-Freitag present Nelson-Mandela-Schule with their winners’ prizes.

During the final, Robert Leonhardt and Vasco de Menezes from Schadow-Gymnasium offered a range of convincing and well-researched arguments for how tech companies could do more to address online misinformation. But ultimately, it was Emily Reid and Luis Rosefeldt’s impassioned and consistent defence of free speech that tipped the judges, who awarded them overall winners of the competition.

The Schadow-Gymnasium team receive their runners-up prizes.

Students from across Berlin arrived at UE’s Berlin campus to take part in the competition, ably supported by their dedicated teachers from:

· Eckener-Gymnasium                         · Gottfried-Keller-Gymnasium

· Hans-Carossa-Gymnasium             · Humboldt-Gymnasium

· Nelson-Mandela-Schule                   · Paulsen-Gymnasium

· Schadow-Gymnasium                      · Werner-von-Siemens-Gymnasium

Judges from UE joined others from the worlds of publishing, journalism, arts & culture, business, public services and many more, to put the young debaters on the spot to develop and justify their arguments and compete for a range of prestigious prizes. This year, the prize partners were World and Press, Stadtwandel Verlag as well as co-hosts Freiblickinstitut. A German, liberal think-tank, the Freiblickinstitut stands for freedom and progress, and regularly hosts debates on a range of current issues from politics and the economy to science and art. The institute has been a longstanding champion of DM Berlin and its ethos of open debate.

The judges awarded Emily Reid of Nelson-Mandela-Schule the coveted Best Individual prize for her tenacious approach and attention to detail, Thi Quan Tinh Tran from Humboldt-Gymnasium received a Highly Commended prize and Werner-von-Siemens-Gymnasium’s Ferdinand Johnen was awarded the Commended prize.

Clockwise from top: a warm welcome to the UE Berlin Campus; Best Individual Emily Reid with Freiblickinstitut’s Sabine Beppler-Spahl; Highly Commended Thi Quan Tinh Tran & Commended Ferdinand Johnen.

Mr Fischer, Head of the English Department at Werner-von-Siemens-Gymnasium, said of the competition:

“We have really enjoyed taking part in the competition and the students were extra motivated by the setting and the people present and the care taken and by the schedule. Everything has been put together so neatly with an eye for detail and I was really impressed by the passion and energy displayed all day, which really made it a memorable event. It really has been the best competition we have taken part in in a while, and we are extremely motivated to come back!”


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 Mo Lovatt on mo@theboi.co.uk  

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. Follow Debating Matters on Twitter: @DebatingMatters

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

For further information about the competition, visit www.debatingmatters.com

For further information about Freiblickinstitut, visit www.freiblickinstitut.de

Announcing the Debating Matters Berlin 2022 Championship!

We’re delighted to announce that Debating Matters is returning to Berlin – live and in person, for our seventh DM Berlin championship.

On Thursday 16 June, during a full day of lively debates, eight Berlin schools will battle it out to become Debating Matters Berlin 2022 Champions. Along the way, teams will have to tackle such issues as whether technical progress can solve our environmental problems, whether Western museums should repatriate their cultural artefacts and if UBI can solve our economic and social problems.  The group stages will culminate in the winners of each group taking on the topic, Tech companies should act to stop online misinformation in the grand final.

This year, teams will be competing from Eckener-Gymnasium, Schadow Gymnasium, Paulsen-Gymnasium, Hans-Carossa-Gymnasium, Humboldt-Gymnasium, Gottfried-Keller-Gymnasium, Werner-von-Siemens-Gymnasium and Nelson-Mandela-Schule.

Berlin students in the audience during 2020’s DM Berlin Championship

Debating Matters has always felt honoured to work with Freiblickinstitut to bring the competition to Germany, and we are delighted to do so again this year. We’re also very pleased, after a year of debates on Zoom, to be back at the University of Europe for Applied Sciences and we’d like to thank both our partners for their hard work and commitment to making this year’s event possible.

At the heart of the championship, 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. For details of the full competition, please visit the EVENT page of our website and, if you’re in Berlin on 16 June and would like to be in the audience for the event, please get in touch with Mo Lovatt.