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UEL hosts primary school debating finals 

Winning team secure place at Oxford University final

Quick thinking, humour, and rhetorical finesse were the order of the day, as Year 6 pupils from Godwin Junior School, Forest Gate, won the London regional final of the Debate Mate Cup, securing their place in the national final to be held at the famous Oxford Union next month.

The regional final, which was held at the University of East London (UEL), was the culmination of a 16-week competition involving dozens of schools. Two hundred pupils from 17 schools made it through to the last stage, which consisted of three tough rounds of debates before the top two schools squared off for a place at the national final.

There was plenty of cheering during the day, as pupil after pupil took to the floor, giving impassioned speeches on challenging motions like ‘animal testing should be banned,’ ‘toys and games about war should not be allowed,’ and ‘school pupils should do two hours of sport a week’.

In the final, Godwin and Ravenscroft Primary School, Canning Town, debated a motion that was sure to provoke everyone in the room: ‘This house believes home work should be abolished.’

After nearly an hour of debating, a panel of experts declared Godwin the victors, thanks to their outstanding content, style and strategy.  

Godwin debaters Bethan, Eedie, Hamza, Hrydai and Riya were delighted with their win, which earned them a medal an impressive silver trophy.

“It was so fun, and lots of suspense,” said Eedie. “If you’re confident and try your best you can achieve your dreams.”

Team-mate Bethan said they were surprised to have won. “It was so shocking when we won,” she said. “We were not expecting it at all. I’m really happy and enjoyed the whole day.” 

Olivia Sundberg, the Debate Mate primary school programme director, said the competition was all about social mobility, helping to build confidence and leadership skills in schools that have higher than average free school meals.

“It’s fun to see the children develop, and it can be a life-changing difference for them,” she said. “It’s why I got involved and remain strongly committed to changing lives.”  

Charlotte Thwaites, the Primary School Partnership Officer at UEL and herself a UEL graduate, said the competition was a great opportunity to give local children an enjoyable experience of university.

She said, “It’s been good to work with Debate Mate as we’re both focused on working with young people who might be the first in their family to go to university. It really helps raise aspirations.”

And what is Bethan’s advice to other school pupils? “Definitely get involved in debating because it’s such a good experience, boosts your confidence and helps you to think quickly,” she said. Motion carried.