This week, two teams from North West schools convened on Sedbergh School vying for a place in the regional finals of the UK’s toughest debating competition, the Institute of Ideas Debating Matters Competition.

After a hard-fought debate, Sedbergh School were victorious, having triumphed over Cowley International College, debating whether the BBC’s television licence fee should be abolished.

They impressed the judges with their quick-witted and astute arguments. The competition is sponsored by primary funder the Wellcome Trust.

Regarded as the toughest debating competition in the UK, debaters had to prove they could answer the tough questions to claim the victory, as Sedbergh School did.  

A brilliant speech alone will not suffice in the competition which tests students’ knowledge, as well as their public speaking skills. Sedbergh School also presented speeches and answered questions from the judges arguing that we should not permit performance-enhancing drugs in sport.

Megan Kenyon (C) from Sedbergh School, local to Sedbergh, particularly impressed the judges and was named Best Individual. Megan, 17, plans to study English and French at university and recently played a very convincing inn-keeper’s wife in the School’s Les Miserables production.

During the debate students were grilled by a group of expert judges and professionals including Chris Tomlinson OBE, trustee, Cumbria Community Foundation; Mike Zeller, breakfast presenter at BBC Radio Cumbria; Ben Berry, councillor, South Lakeland District Council; and Anwar Oduro-Kwarteng, Debating Matters Topic Guide Editor.

The Sedbergh team also included Katherine Fleck (L), 17, from Sedbergh, Mollie Richmond (R), 17, from Kirkby Stephen and Oliver Cowen (H), 17, from Aberdeen. Katherine and Oliver debated the initial topic of Legalising Doping in Sport and Mollie and Megan debated in the final.

Everyone agreed that all students engaged in a friendly yet fiery manner, and all the judges were impressed by the contribution the students made to these key issues.

Sedbergh now progresses to represent Cumbria at the North East Regional Final in the spring. Debating Matters competitions are open to pupils aged 16 to 18. Full details of the programme, debate motions and topics can be found at

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