29 Mar 2012: Bearsden tough talk wins through

Bearsden Academy is champion at top debating competition

Bearsden Academy from Bearsden has triumphed at the Scotland & Northern Ireland Regional Final of the Academy of Ideas Debating Matters Competition, supported in the region by the Medical Research Council. Winning out against five other teams from across the Scotland & Northern Ireland, the team have secured their place at the prestigious National Final in July with some fiery arguments and in-depth research.

Six debaters from Bearsden took part in the competition dubbed ‘the toughest debating competition in the UK’, that values substance over style and involves students thinking on their feet as they respond to tough questioning from a panel of three expert judges. However, with impressive individual performances from all of the team on debates that included “Olympics: the greatest show on earth is worth it” and “We should introduce a system of presumed consent in organ donation” the school managed to secure a place in the final against Antrim Grammar School from Northern Ireland.

In the final debate which asked whether social media is rejuvenating politics. Judges of the final debate, Professor Ian Jackson, Head of Medical and Developmental Genetics at the Medical Research Council; Seonag Mackinnon, Education Correspondent for BBC Scotland; and Penny Lewis from Scott Sutherland School of Architecture, Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, underlined how impressed they were with the strength of arguments.

Speaking about the competition judge, Dr Norah Spears, Reader in Developmental Biology at the Centre for Integrative Physiology, University of Edinburgh, said:

“I have been to quite a few debates held in the conventional style, and thought it was great at Debating Matters to lose the formality and aggressive style and instead be able to really debate the issues themselves.”

In addition to winning the top spot, three speakers from Bearsden won prestigious individual prizes awarded by a panel of 5 individual judges who gave ‘honourable mentions’ to Ross Greer; Ciaran Harkness and Dougie Morton. Afterwards Ross Greer said:

“The way that we debate for Debating Matters allows you to delve deeper in to the issues. The back and forward with the judges has been fantastic.”

Teachers and students alike believe that they will go on to achieve great things at the 3-day Debating Matters Competition National Final in London in July, which the students won a place to. In addition to this, the team won subscriptions to Encyclopaedia Britannica, six ‘Very Short Introductions too.’ each and an impressive £500 worth of Hodder Education books for their school.

Debating Matters is no ordinary debating competition. Renowned for being ‘the toughest debating competition in the country’ debaters were grilled by panels of expert judges. Judges included Joyce McMillan, Theatre Critic and Columnist at The Scotsman; Gregor Urquhart, Communications Director at The Young Scot; Anne Johnstone, Chief Leader Writer and Columnist at The Herald; and Amanda Tyndall, Deputy Director of the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Speaking after the final debate, on which he sat as a judge, Professor Ian Jackson, Head of Medical and Developmental Genetics at the Medical Research Council said of the day:

“I was taken aback by how eloquent the students are. They are debating the issues that are really shaping the world – and doing it extremely well!”


Thursday 27 June:
Oxfordshire Championship at Oxford Union, in partnership with Magdalen College School and Oxford Festival of Arts

Friday 5 July:
North East Championship at Durham Sixth Form Centre


Find a list of all our previous championship events here.


Bernie Whelan, our DM coordinator, is raising money for Debating Matters. To stage one of our Championships for six to 12 teams costs £6,000. Find out more on Bernie’s Wonderful fundraising page.


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