29 Mar 2012: Beckfoot School win North East Regional Final for first time
Bradford teenagers triumph in ‘toughest debating competition’
Beckfoot school in Bradford have triumphed at the North East Regional Final of the Institute of Ideas Debating Matters Competition at Newcastle University with persuasive arguments and spunky attitude, winning £500 worth of books and resources for their school and a place at the prestigious National Final in July.
The school are relatively new to the debating competition dubbed ‘the toughest in the UK’. Having competed for the first time last year, the team have gone from strength to strength. Not only have Beckfoot made their way to the Regional Finals of the competition across two years - and will now be going to the National Final in July - but the school now have an active in-school competition, and in the words of former student Alice Manning ‘a real culture of intellectualism’ has flourished as a result.
The six debaters were new to a format 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 St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Comprehensive School.
In the final debate which asked whether enhancement drugs undermine the spirit of sport, judges of the final debate, Richard Moss, the BBC’s Political Editor in the North East; Dr Mike Trennell, founder and leader of MoveLab in Newcastle and previously part of the International Olympic Committee drug detection development team; and Jon Bryan a regional officer for the University and College Union, underlined how impressed they were with the strength of arguments.
Speaking about the teams’ involvement in the competition, Ben Harding, head of sixth form and debate coach at Beckfoot School said:
”We love Debating Matters – the topics are bang of the moment and the judges really put students through their paces. Getting Debating Matters going in school has brought out the very best in our kids.”
In addition to winning the top spot, two speakers, Charlotte Cooper Beglin (18) and Pip Sayers (17), won ‘honourable mentions’ from a team of 6 individual judges who awarded prizes for best individual performances on the day. Speaking at the end of the day, Charlotte commented:“Taking part in these debates demands that we all think outside the box – I think that’s a great thing.”
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. Students also won a guided tour around the BBC’s Newcastle studios, subscriptions to Encyclopaedia Britannica, six ‘Very Short Introductions’ 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 Sir John Burns, Professor of Clinical Genetics at Newcastle University; Chris Tighe, North East correspondent, Financial Times and Dr Ian Ground, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, North East Centre for Lifelong Learning, Sunderland University. Speaking after the debate he judged, Richard Moss commented:
“It’s always fantastic to watch bright young minds engage with complex issues. The quality of debates and the harnessing of research to develop arguments is always impressive.”