Secondary Schools Go Head To Head In Debate Competition

On a hot summer’s day secondary school students took part in the first “Debate Outwood” competition for Years 10 students from six academies across Yorkshire debating topics ranging from whether prisoners should have the vote to should humanity fear advances in artificial intelligence.

The event is hosted at Outwood Grange Academy in Wakefield and ran by The Leeds Salon, a public discussion forum established in 2009 and uses the format of the sixth-form Debating Matters competition.

In addition to the host academy, five other secondary academies took part in Debate Outwood. These were Outwood Academy Freeston, Outwood Academy Hemsworth, Outwood Academy Shafton, Outwood Academy Adwick, and Outwood Academy City Fields.

After fiery encounters, the final saw Outwood Grange Academy debate Outwood Academy Freeston. The topic was whether populism is a threat to democracy, with Outwood Grange Academy standing for the position that it was, while Outwood Academy Freeston argued against the position.

The teams from both academies gave strong accounts of themselves in the final which was moderated by Paul Thomas and judged by Kevin Trickett MBE, President of Wakefield Civic Society, Simon Hill, Managing Director of YPO, and Nat Edwards, Chief Executive at Thackray Medical Museum.

After they had given their arguments the judges went away to discuss their decision, before returning to announce the winners were Outwood Academy Freeston.

The Leeds Salon co-founder, Paul Thomas, said: “This is a tough competition format that emphasis content over presentational style. As such, the Years 10 & 11 pupils, most new to debating, did exceptionally well with some very difficult topics aimed at sixth-formers, and really shows what young people are capable of.”

The event was also attended by the Mayor of Wakefield, Councillor Charlie Keith, who was a guest speaker during the morning debates. Fellow judges included Feona Carmichael, from the University of Law in Leeds, Paul Butterworth, head of technical support at NHS Digital, and former Bradford councillor, Simon Cooke.

Councillor Charlie Keith said: “I was delighted to be asked to attend Debate Outwood, and I thoroughly enjoyed the debates. I was taken aback by the knowledge of the students, they had obviously worked hard on their preparation and it made for some fascinating debates. A huge well done to all!”

The competition was sponsored by YPO (the Yorkshire Purchasing Organisation), leading law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, and Outwood Grange Academies Trust. Former Debating Matters competitor, Jake Unsworth of Womble Bond Dickinson also acted as a chair on the day.

In addition to their sponsorship, YPO also donated an iPad as a prize to be given to the Best Individual of the day for their overall contribution to all debates. This went to Thomas Smith from Outwood Academy Shafton. 

Two further awards including goodybags filled with prizes from Womble Bond Dickinson and YPO were awarded to two Highly Commended Individuals: Samuel Lister, of Outwood Academy Freeston, and Mia Wood, of Outwood Academy Adwick.

Lee Woods, Assistant Principal at Outwood Grange who helped organise the event with Paul Thomas, said: “It was a fantastic day, and the students coped well under the increasing heat throughout the day. They maintained their focus, and delivered good, consistent arguments in a civil way. I am so proud of everyone who took part, they really did their academies proud.

“At Outwood Grange Academies Trust, we believe in putting students first and supporting them to fully reach their potential. Events like this all add in to that and enable students to express themselves in public speaking forums, outside the classroom.”