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SG wins South West final of Debating Matters

SG wins South West final of Debating Matters
Academic Enrichment

Following a day of well-prepared, articulate arguments and discussions, the team from Sherborne Girls was named winners of the South West regional final of Debating Matters, a national sixth-form debating competition for students from around the UK.

Eight teams from Truro High School, Dauntseys, The Burgate School and Sixth Form in Hampshire, St Mary's Shaftesbury, Leweston, The Gryphon School, Sherborne, Sherborne Girls and Gillingham School discussed and debated their way through the early rounds to be whittled down to just two: Gillingham and Sherborne Girls in the final held on Friday evening.

Described as ‘the UK’s toughest debating competition’, Debating Matters, organised by the Academy of Ideas, sees teams of students from private and state schools battling it out over contentious issues. Uniquely among debating competitions, Debating Matters focuses on ‘substance over style’, with rigorous research and clear arguments carrying the day.

The topic for the final debate was whether we should welcome or fear advances in Artificial Intelligence and it proved to be a fascinating, highly topical debate with both sides presenting powerful arguments ‘for and against’.

The independent guest judges, from a wide variety of career sectors including the legal sector, publishing, educationalists and financial services, were looking out for demonstrable research around the topic, mental flexibility under pressure and being able to articulate their opinion clearly and in a compelling manner.

Louise Troup, Head of English at Sherborne Girls, explained the benefits of debating:

“The ability to engage in and listen to a balanced discussion is especially vital in a world dominated by social media, where our individual feeds are tailored to suit our pre-existing opinions. It is also vital for students to engage with issues in real depth in an era of image-based news and skim reading of web content.

“The decline in readership of printed newspapers and the rise of news websites and social media feeds means that our sixth formers receive news in bite-sized accessible chunks. Researching their topics for debating requires real in-depth research and reading and so improves academic skills too.”

Claire Fox, Director of The Academy of Ideas, said:

“The competition prides itself on taking young people seriously, valuing ideas and allowing free debate. Some of the brightest and best students in Dorset will be taken out of their comfort zone by tackling these topics.”

Photo shows the winning debating team: Willow and Mrin.

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SG wins South West final of Debating Matters