Debating Matters: University Staff Judge Regional Final

Debating Matters: University Staff Judge Regional Final

Staff and students from the University of Sheffield judged and chaired debates at the Yorkshire Regional Final of the national Debating Matters schools debating competition, held at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds last month.

Six schools from Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire vied for a place in the National Final of the competition, which is organised by the Institute of Ideas think tank. Over the course of the day they debated four motions across seven rounds:

‘Unpaid internships are exploitative’

‘The UK should ban the smacking of children’

‘Attempts to extend radically the human lifespan should be welcomed not feared’

‘Commercial surrogacy in poorer countries is exploitative’

Professor Phil Withington of the Department of History, Professor Kathryn Ecclestone of the School of Education, and Dr Tim Shephard of the Department of Music all volunteered as judges at the event. Meanwhile, students Patrice Ellis of the Department of Economics, and Harry Rowbotham of the Department of Psychology, both alumni of the competition, steered the day’s events ably as debate chairs.

Launched by the Institute of Ideas in 2003/04, the Debating Matters competition offers a fresh, accessible and engaging format for debating contemporary issues. The competition has successfully pioneered a format for debate that takes ideas, argument and young people seriously. The focus is on content and substance over style, encouraging young people to engage in an intelligent contest of ideas and hold up their viewpoints to critical scrutiny.

The University of Sheffield became a Judging Partner of the competition in 2013, hosting the South Yorkshire round in our Humanities Research Institute. A number of other members of staff have also volunteered as judges at rounds in the Yorkshire region during the 2013-14 competition. Our involvement in the competition signals the university’s commitment to critical skills and debate, encouraging children and young people to get actively involved in the important controversies of contemporary society.