IT’S no debating matter – North East students have won a place in the national final of a prestigious competition after being crowned regional champions.
The team from Durham Johnston emerged victorious at the North East and Yorkshire Regional Final of the Institute of Ideas and Pfizer Debating Matters Competition.
The heat was held at Newcastle University and saw teams debating contemporary issues, such as whether happiness was the business of the Government and if copyright benefits the arts.
The Durham Johnston team took on Beckfoot School from Bradford in the final round and successfully argued against the motion “we should embrace the use of smart drugs” to be crowned winners.
They have now bagged a place at the three-day national final, which will be staged in London in July.
One of the young debaters, Lawrence Rees, said: “Debating Matters promotes a high quality of debate because the judges are subject experts – they really test you to the limit.”
His teammate, Louis Cowling, who was awarded the prize for Best Individual on the day, said: “It was brilliant, but extraordinarily stressful.”
Having won the national title of the competition just two years ago, teacher Robert Johnston believes they will go on to achieve great things.
He added: “They did brilliantly – bring on the national final.”
Trevor Lincoln, a director from event sponsors Eaga, who judged the regional final, said of the event: “It’s been fascinating. There was an exceptionally high quality of debate from all teams, making it very difficult to judge.
“This is all about sparking debate among students from all backgrounds and giving them greater confidence and more of a voice to shape their future. The topics of discussion, such as climate change, could not be more pressing or relevant.”
The team’s success comes hot on the heels of another highlight for the school, in Crossgate Moor, as it was recently judged to be “outstanding” by Ofsted.
The Government inspectors gave particular praise to its “outstanding curriculum, care, guidance and support”, adding the school “equips students outstandingly well for later life”.
Headteacher Carolyn Roberts said: “We are delighted that Ofsted liked what they found.
“To be described as ‘extremely rigorous’ in our pursuit of ‘academic excellence’ is very pleasing, especially as inspectors rightly saw that our teachers are both ‘extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic’.
“They praised the ‘highly developed understanding of moral issues’ and ‘courtesy and kindness’ shown by the children.
“Most of all, in this real comprehensive school, we are so pleased that Ofsted found we offer a fine education for all, dealing with ‘equal opportunities exceptionally well’.
“Our school motto, sapere aude, means dare to be wise and we continue to work to open all the doors in the world to our young people.”
Chair of governors, David Anderson, added: “The governors wish to pay tribute to the commitment and professionalism of the whole staff, whose efforts on behalf of the children are recognised in this inspection report.
“Durham Johnston is, without doubt, an outstanding school .”
The school is also pleased to announce it has just been awarded a “Confucius Classroom”, which will see it boost its links with teachers in China.
The programme is supported by the Chinese government and includes an annual grant, which will bring a trained teacher from China every year to be part of Durham Johnston’s staff.
Ms Roberts added: “This way we can ensure all of our young people have the chance to equip themselves with really marketable knowledge and skills for the global future we share.”