Politics: Wealden Schools Debating Championship 2013

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Local students Tom Conlon of Uplands Community College and Zach Kahn of Bede's Upper School were the winners of the 2013 Wealden Schools' Debating Competition on Friday 1 March.

The competition, which was hosted at Bede's, was devised and organised by Wealden's MP, Charles Hendry, to encourage A-Level students to develop their debating skills.

Sixth form students were invited from Bede's Upper School, St Leonard's Girls School, Uplands Community College, Uckfield Community and Technology College, Beacon Community College, Michael Hall School, Hailsham Community College and Heathfield Community College.

The 8 teams were each composed of 2 students for different schools, with the first week comprising of the knockout rounds and the second week comprising of the semi-finals and finals.

The motions covered a range of topical issues including the voting age, the EU referendum, military intervention in Syria, tuition fees and media freedom. The judges for the final included Charles Hendry, Adam Boulton from Sky News and the Chairman of East Sussex County Council, Chris Dowling.

Wealden District Council Chairman Jonica Fox was also a judge in the first week.

With a controversial final, fought over the motion 'People's privacy is incompatible with a wholly free press', in front of Mr Boulton, the narrow champions of the debate were Zach Kahn and Tom Conlon.

The winners were invited by Mr Hendry to join him for a tour of Parliament, won tickets to Prime Ministers Questions and lunch. All participants received House of Commons gifts to commemorate the occasion and their participation.

After two weeks of tightly fought competition, Charles Hendry said, "The standard of these students' debating skills are overwhelming and it has been a pleasure to watch them grow over the past two weeks."

"I am incredibly proud of these students who all worked so hard and performed so professionally. All too often we only hear negative things about young people, but all the students who have taken part in these debates are wonderful advocates for their generation. They are a great credit to their schools, their families and above all to themselves and they should all be proud of what they have achieved."

Adam Boulton, who gave the students advice based on his own extensive career in debates and broadcasting, supported Charles Hendry's comments saying, "The range of subjects debated and the calibre of the students involved was impressive."

Councilor Chris Dowling, who returned as to the judging panel after last year's competition emphasised the importance of debating and being able to voice opinions, saying, "the gift to deliver words is tremendous, and the students I have seen today are extremely gifted."

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