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 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.
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 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.
A special thanks to Molly Barlow, Andrew Leslau, Simon Hargraves, and Charlesworth Financial Planning without whom this event would not have been possible.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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
- 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.
- Debating Matters is a project of the boi charity. For more information on the charity, please visit theboi.co.uk
- Follow Debating Matters on Twitter: @DebatingMatters