Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School wins DM Oxfordshire Championship

Debating Matters has a showcase day as part of the Oxford Festival of the Arts – with a special evening event to boot.

Debating Matters came to the Oxford Union to give eight local schools the chance to test their ideas and arguments in the unique debating format where substance rather than style carries the day. After a hard-fought day of debate, it was Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School who came out on top, impressing the judges and their peers with their outstanding ability to marshal arguments and discuss complex topics.

In a heated final debate on the motion ‘Populism is a threat to democracy’, the winners successfully made the case that populism is to be welcomed as it refocuses politics on the concerns of ordinary people and away from elites. The winners narrowly beat Leighton Park School, who passionately argued that populism uses simplistic and divisive rhetoric. In one memorable moment, a student from Leighton Park argued that, even though they were a Brexiteer, they believed the populism of many Brexit voters had to be challenged.

The winning team from Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School

The day, hosted at the historic Oxford Union, formed part of the prestigious Oxford Festival of the Arts. Uniquely for this event, the schools competition final was followed by a public panel discussion open to all members of the public. In this discussion, a panel of leading thinkers – aided by one student from Magdalen College School’s Debating Matters team – discussed ‘From sexting to screen addicts: should we be afraid of online harms?

At this panel discussion, Jess Butcher MBE, the technology entrepreneur, Victoria Nash, deputy director of the Oxford Internet Institute, and Martyn Perks, a digital business consultant, were joined by Jamie Shephard from Magdalen College School and a large public audience to thrash out the fears, risks and opportunities that surround the internet age. While no definitive answers were reached, the audience certainly created a lively discussion that enriched everyone’s understanding of the difficult issues at play.

Panelists answering audience questions at the debate ‘From sexting to screen-addicts: should we be afraid of online harms?’

Earlier in the day, students tackled topics such as ‘Western museums should repatriate cultural artefacts’ and ‘Childhood vaccinations should be compulsory’. It was to the credit of all students involved that these debates were both fiercely fought and intellectually invigorating, with participants showing a keen grasp of the scientific, economic, and above all moral issues at play. The judges for the day – drawn from local business, politics, and academia among others – were impressed by the breadth and depth of research.

The runners-up, Leighton Park School

The judges awarded Tom Powell of John Hampden Grammar School the prize of ‘Best Individual’ for his excellent questions and impassioned speaking, with Keely Brown of Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School and Ellie Adams of Queen Mary’s College picking up the ‘Highly Commended’ and ‘Commended’ titles respectively.

Tom Powell of John Hampden Grammar School, receiving the Best Individual prize from Andrew Leslau

A special thanks to Molly Barlow, Andrew Leslau, Simon Hargraves, and Charlesworth Financial Planning without whom this event would not have been possible.


  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:
    • Cirencester College
    • John Hampden Grammar School
    • Leighton Park School
    • Magdalen College School
    • Queen Mary’s College
    • Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School
    • St Edward’s School, Oxford
    • Waddesdon Church of England 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

Special DM public debate at Oxford Union on 27 June

As part of our DM Oxfordshire Championship 2019, the final debate of the competition and an extra public debate are being presented as a special event at the Oxford Union. This two-part event is part of the Oxford Festival of the Arts. You can buy tickets here.

The Schools Debate 

“Populism is a threat to democracy”

Following a day of debating amongst Oxfordshire sixth-form students, the final debate of the competition gets this event underway. 

The presentation and award-giving will take place immediately after the debate.

The Main Debate
19:00 – 20:30

“From sexting to screen-addicts: should we be afraid of online harms?”

Few deny the benefits of social media and the internet age, yet there are also constant calls for greater regulation of online media and concerns about the negative effects especially for children. In February of this year, the UK’s Chief Medical Officers issued recommendations to parents encouraging them to ban the use of mobile phones at the dinner table. We live in a time of heightened sensitivity to possible online harms – from foreign interference in elections through online ‘troll farms’ to the alleged link between social media and suicide.

Parents and teachers seem especially eager for clarity about what boundaries to enforce online. To what extent should we be concerned about the harms that exist online, or should we be careful about fanning the flames of moral panics? How should we protect children from new technologies without robbing them of the possibilities such technologies afford? Should we be worried about the erosion of privacy online, as people share more and more and are increasingly tracked by large corporations and governments? Do we need to have a conversation about why we increasingly see everything in terms of the harms that exist, and struggle to imagine new generations and ourselves as robust enough to deal with the challenges we face?

The debate will be chaired by Claire Fox, founder and director of the Academy of Ideas, a writer and broadcaster and regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze. The guest speakers are:

Jess Butcher MBE
technology entrepreneur, co-founder of Tick and Blippar; three times TedX speaker.

Alex Krasodomski-Jones
director, Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, Demos

Dr Victoria Nash
deputy director, Oxford Internet Institute

Martyn Perks
digital business consultant and writer

DM comes to Durham on Friday 5 July

Sixth-form students from eight schools in the North East will battle it out for the title of Debating Matters North East Champions 2019 at a flagship day of debate on Friday 5th July. The event will be hosted at the Durham Sixth Form Centre.

Previous DM championships

Registration is now open for the competition, which sees 16- to 18-year-olds take part in a series of debates in what has been dubbed ‘the UK’s toughest debating competition’. Local schools will generally enter teams of between six and eight sixth-form students, and Debating Matters particularly welcomes applications from schools without a history of traditional debating.

Durham Sixth Form Centre is an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ school and the largest post-16 school in the North East of England. With a fantastic location in central Durham, it makes a great venue for the competition and Debating Matters is glad for the school’s support.

As ever with Debating Matters, it will be the substance of the arguments – rather than the style of presentation – that will decide the winners, and participants are encouraged to leave no stone unturned in a day of fierce, frantic and, most importantly, free debate. The students will face judging panels of adults from a wide range of professional backgrounds – including local business leaders, scientists, authors and academics – who will quiz them on their arguments and challenge them to defend their research and thinking.

Geoff Kidder, chief executive of the boi charity, said of the upcoming competition: “We are hugely excited to return again to the North East, which is a region we always tremendously enjoy going to. We know we can expect very rigorous debate and an atmosphere of competitive intellectual camaraderie. We offer particular thanks to Durham Sixth Form Centre for hosting the championship. We are excited to see what the schools have in store for each other on the day.”