Last weekend two Downside pupils took part in the Oxford Schools’ Debating Finals run by the historic and famous Oxford Union.

Aimed at pupils aged 14-18, Oxford Schools’ is the largest British Parliamentary school-level debate competition in the world, and the largest debating competition in the UK.

Downside was represented by one Fourth Form and one Fifth Form pupil. The debaters had a minute to read the motion and then only 15 minutes to plan their approach. They played in rounds which consisted of four teams, all electronically drawn from a computer.

 They debated four motions:

  1. ‘This house believes that the government should not adopt child versions of social media platforms as they will do more harm than good’;
  2. ‘This house believes the government should introduce a UBI amount of money to every household’;
  3. ‘This house believes parents should not inflate their children’s expectations of their abilities’;
  4. ‘This house regrets the permitted emergence of civil journalism in the presentation of news’.

They were competing against some of the best school debaters from the UK and abroad, and most of their competitors were Sixth Formers. Our pupils had a challenging but exciting day, one that was a considerable step up from the regional rounds. They debated very well for their age and for their first time at the Oxford finals, exemplified resilience, took on board the feedback after every debate and admirably represented Downside. 

From one of the debaters:

‘For me, debating is not about how you’re right; it’s about how you’re wrong. To explore opposing views, to challenge your own beliefs, to defend an unpopular opinion. Understanding that your opponents, like you, are fighting for what they think is right.

Our experience at the Oxford Schools’ Debating Finals has taught us more than just skills, knowledge, or style: it has taught us perspective – something we often ignore in favour of self-assertion.

A conversation can only occur when you let yourself be wrong, when you listen more than you speak… That’s what I love about debate.’