Sixth formers win national title on debut appearance

A group of our sixth formers have taken the national title after a debut appearance in a prestigious debating championship.

The four teenagers battled through two rounds before reaching the final of the Debating Matters Public Policy Championship, where they had to debate the issue of free speech in universities against a Welsh school.

And one of the team, Zara Bek, was crowned the ‘Best Individual’ of the competition, which was held online this year. The winning team also included members Jake Parish, Katie Smith and Asha Rice.

“This is a prestigious debate and the judges are often prominent in journalism, or business,” said deputy headteacher Jamie Warner-Lynn.

“Crucially, the format differs from any other debate in as much as the judges really probe the participants' understanding, asking very difficult questions.This is not about rhetorical flourishes; it is about mastery of your brief and mental agility,” he added.

Zara put the team’s success down to working together. “What helped the most was definitely teamwork and the ability to cooperate as a group rather than acting in separate ways. It brought a lot of cohesion to our arguments,” she said.

Fellow team member Katie, who had an ‘honourable mention,’ said the judges even commented on the group’s teamwork and she was proud of the success of Springwood, a member of the West Norfolk Academies Trust.

“Due to the fact we weren’t allowed to choose the motion or whether we were for or against, I know that I had to debate against my own personal beliefs. This was certainly challenging, but meant that I had to really re-educate myself and research thoroughly to create a convincing, strong argument,” she said.

“It really was our teamwork, as identified by the judges, that set us apart from the other teams. We all worked extremely well together,” she added.

The first round saw the team members speaking against the motion “Tech companies should act to stop online misinformation.” The second round saw the Springwood students speak  in support of “Universal basic income is not a solution to our social and economic problems,” and they were against Cirencester College in both rounds.

The final debate had the Norfolk school team support “The government should impose a duty of support for free speech in universities,” while a Cardiff school, Ysgol Gyfun Plasmawr, was against the motion.

One of the three judges was Dr Piers Benn, a prominent philosophy lecturer and author who has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze along with Channel Four and Sky News.

Aside from taking the title, the school also receives £500 in books as the prize.