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Monday 29 June 2015, Justine Brian

Beckfoot School crowned Debating Matters champions

Bradfood sixth-formers victorious at the National Final.

Beckfoot School have beaten 11 schools from all corners of the UK to win the Debating Matters National Final 2015 at the British Library last weekend. Two days of intense debate saw the comprehensive school sixth-formers from Bradford impress judges and their peers with their sharp ideas and broad research, winning all four of their debates to be crowned Debating Matters National Champions 2015.

The Debating Matters Competition is supported by primary funder the Wellcome Trust.

The British Library hosted an opening reception, supported by the Federalist Society, on Friday 26 June for participants, supporters and friends of the competition. The British Library’s Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition took centre stage, with exhibition curator Dr Alexander Lock delivering an opening address to the students on its past history and contemporary importance. With content triumphing over style, participants were encouraged to harness the spirit of Magna Carta and leave no stone unturned in a weekend of fierce and free debate.

Beckfoot prepared for over a month arguing in their two opening debates that we still have a need for public libraries and that physician-assisted suicide should not be legalised. Through to the semi-finals, George Loftus and Ed Ford beat Withington Girls’ School, Manchester by arguing we should still expect online privacy in a digital age. Students Awais Nazir and Felix Bunting then triumphed in the final debate against Douglas Academy, Milngavie, arguing we should permit the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport.

Teacher and debate coach Chris Toole said:

“We did this for Bradford. Everything you hear in the news about Bradford is bad. We wanted to change that and show everyone how smart our young people are. We’re over the moon. The whole weekend was a team effort. The judges in the competition are a great learning experience for our students. The interaction they get with leading adults is a unique experience in UK education.”

Student Awais Nazir, who debated in the final, told us that:

“It’s been an absolutely fantastic experience. Debating Matters offers various insightful questions leading to deep contentious arguments with plenty of laughs. We had to work really hard to win.”

And his co-debater Felix Bunting, said:

“Debating Matters is a fun and interesting way of showing that every issue is never as simple as it seems. We had no idea we would win.”

Across the three-day final, teams not only debated but were guests at a private dinner, sponsored by UCAS, where chief executive Mary Curnock-Cook spoke of the importance of sixth-formers making the right choices for their future by making their own decisions - and which, she said, would be their first adult decision. The Institute of Ideas also staged a balloon debate, where guest balloonists were asked to argue for the world’s greatest scientific discovery. Broadcaster and comedian Timandra Harkness won the audience vote, and ‘zero’ was voted the winner!

Sir Peter Bazalgette, chair of Arts Council England, who judged the final debate commented:

“The debate was decided by the smallest of margins. Beckfoot were able to move the debate on to their own terrain and argue an impressive technical agenda which ultimately won them the debate. I would trust all four debaters to sort out FIFA.”

The prize for the Best Individual over the course of the weekend went to Sam Cooke of Withington Girls’ School.

The Debating Matters team would like to thank all the judges and speakers who helped to make the weekend so challenging and stimulating for the students who attended, but most importantly we would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our sponsors and supporters for their commitment and belief in the Debating Matters Competition. Thanks to: Wellcome Trust, Hodder Education, UCAS, Lloyds Scholars, the Medical Research Council, BT, Statoil the CIPR and of course the British Library for hosting and supporting the event.

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RELATED EVENT

Debating Matters Competition - National Final

2:48pm, Friday 26 June 2015, British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB

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