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Redcliffe Debating Team in national finals

Redcliffe 6th Form Debating Team Success

The Redcliffe 6th Form debating team did outstandingly well in achieving equal third place in the Institute of Ideas 'Debating Matters' competition, which attracts 200 schools from across the UK. Having battled through a local and regional round to become 'Wales & the South West' champions, the team went to London for the finals at the start of July. Over an exhausting and challenging weekend the teams were put through their paces by top-name judges 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 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. In our first round Jake Dowse and Ana Ryan-Flinn showed their coolness under pressure and understanding of the issues in debating the question of whether social media is rejuvenating politics. The semi-final debate on the impact of neuroscience on our understanding of criminal responsibility was especially challenging, with a range of science, law and philosophy being argued under the scrutiny of specialist judges. Alice Thomson and James Nash put up an impressive fight, but the approach to the motion that Beckfoot School from Bradford chose to take was tough to bring down, and Beckfoot won through on a split decision from the judges. The rest of our team included Dominic Dee, who helped get us through the Bristol heat, and Jo Hawkins and Ally Glennie, who were lined up to represent us in the final, which was eventually won by Graveney School in London.

Debating team

Speaking after judging our 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. 

In addition to winning £1000 of books for the school, the Redcliffe team carried off 3 of the 12 individual awards – Jake Dowse receiving an 'honourable mention', Ana Ryan-Flinn the third prize for her individual contributions, and James Nash, the Gina Owens Memorial Prize for the passion, humour and quality of his contributions.