02 Jul 2012: Co-founder of competition finally sees his school triumph
Graveney School, London - Debating Matters Champions 2012!
from left to right: Alex Dignan, Aaron Stead, Orla Oakey, Laurence Maples, teacher David Perks, Caitlin Comins and Georgia Haigh
Graveney School from Tooting have triumphed at the National Final of the Institute of Ideas Debating Matters Competition 2011/12, which took place over three days at the Wellcome Collection in London, from 29 June to the 1 July. The team won all three of their debates over the weekend, withstanding tough questioning from the judges and a lively audience, and drawing on their in-depth research.
The win is a historic moment for Graveney. Teacher David Perks was the originator of the competition, putting the original idea forward to the Institute of Ideas as an opportunity for students to grapple with the big issues of the day in a challenging way. However, despite dreaming up the competition, David Perks’ team have never managed to proceed beyond the opening round at the National Finals. As the competition approaches its tenth year, it is fitting that Graveney should emerge the champions. Speaking after the event David Perks said:
“I am just so proud of the team, every single one of them did a tremendous job across the weekend and the whole year. They have gained a huge amount in participating in the competition, and achieved a great deal, both for themselves and Graveney School.”
The Graveney team was made up of six outstanding students – Alexandra Dignan, Orla Oakey, Caitlin Comins, Aaron Stead, Laurence Maples and Georgia Haigh. The fiery team were put through their paces by top-name judges across the weekend, including: broadcaster and BBC Today programme presenter, Justin Webb; chairman of Unilever UK &Ireland, Amanda Sourry; Chief executive of the British Council, Martin Davidson and Executive Vice President, Global Head of Strategy and Business Development; Executive Vice President, John Knight and The Times’ Associate Editor & Chief Leader Writer, Camilla Cavendish.
During the course of the weekend the eight competing teams grappled with a wide range of contemporary debates, including the question of whether social media is rejuvenating politics and if enhancement drugs undermine the spirit of sport. In the first semi-final debate Bearsden Academy made the case that the baby boomers have squandered their children’s future against Graveney School, but were narrowly beaten by the eventual champions. In the second semi-final debate on the impact of neuroscience on our understanding of criminal responsibility, St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School from Bristol were knocked out by Beckfoot School in Bradford.
Tension then mounted for the final debate on minimum alcohol pricing, in which Graveney were arguing for the adoption of minimum alcohol pricing and Beckfoot School were arguing against. Both teams put forward some impressive arguments, and faced a barrage of questions from the probing panel of judges. As chair Claire Fox went out for audience questions she was greeted by a sea of hands from an audience keen to ask questions.
In the spirit of the competition, and reflecting the way that all schools engaged across the weekend, teacher Ben Harding said:
“The weekend has been fantastic, a real learning experience for my students. All twelve of them have been soaking up ideas from the moment they arrived. The way that Debating Matters engages their intellect is unique, it pushes them beyond the curriculum towards life.”
Speaking after judging a semi-final debate, journalist Camilla Cavendish said:
“This was my first time judging for Debating Matters and it was brilliant. An enormous amount of work had been done by the teams and they withstood a great deal of pressure from the judges and the audience. Debating Matters really takes students forward. It is very different from conventional debate, and moves away from flashy rhetoric and towards substantial argument.”
Across the three day final teams not only spoke in their hard-fought debates, but also made some excellent contributions during the numerous extra-curricular activities that were organised across the National Final weekend, including a panel discussion on the impact of the Leveson Inquiry on free speech, with top name speakers Ray Snoddy, presenter BBC Newswatch; Thais Portilho-Shrimpton, coordinator of the ‘Hacked Off Campaign’ and web editor for the Media Standards Trust, and Brendan O’Neill, editor of spiked, and at an Institute of Ideas ‘Question Time’ event, with speakers including Alex Deane, Head of Public Affairs at Weber Shandwick, Baroness Kishwer Falkner, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice and Dr Ellie Lee, reader in Social Policy at the University of Kent.
Teams and individuals also received some fantastic prizes from our sponsors, including £4000 worth of books and educational resources from Hodder Education for the winners, runners-up and semi-finalists, an all-expenses paid weekend in London for the Battle of Ideas Festival, an exclusive guided tour of BBC TV Centre, a box set of six documentaries from the acclaimed Storyville series, Encyclopaedia Britannica atlases,
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, Statoil, Economic and Social Research Council, the Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and Sanofi
Winners: Graveney School, London
Runners-up: Beckfoot School, Bradford
Semi finalist 1: Bearsden Academy, Bearsden
Semi finalist 2: St. Mary Redcliffe & Temple School, Bristol
Best Individual: Dougie Morton, Bearsden Academy, Bearsden
Highly Commended: Laurence Maples, Graveney School, London
Commended: Ana Ryan Flinn, St. Mary Redcliffe & Temple School, Bristol
Gina Owens Memorial Prize: James Nash, St. Mary Redcliffe & Temple School, Bristol
Honourable Mentions: Neelam Chhara, Queens’ School; Asa Cremin, Beckfoot School; Charlotte Cooper Beglin, Beckfoot School; Jake Dowse, St Mary Redciffe & Temple School; Alexander Homer, Beckfoot School; Lucy Miller, Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School; Cameron Price, Wath Comprehensive School; Tom Watts, The Purbeck School.
For media enquiries about the Debating Matters National Final 2012 please contact Helen Birtwistle on 020 7269 9232. For all the latest news on the competition, follow us on Twitter and Facebook. And if you want your school to be crowned Champions 2013, take part!
National Final photography by Chris Sharp.