Pupils in Years 6 and 7 have the opportunity to get involved in debating in a weekly club at Emanuel with Mr Keddie, Teacher of History & Politics. Here’s the lowdown on what debates took place in spring 2021.

Week 10 (Begins 22nd June)


“This House believes that Patriotism is a good thing” (linked to the European football championships)

Marcel Wurzel argued in favour. He does not want to let down the country he is from. There is a natural and strong sense of collective identity. He would always back Norway first, then Germany, then England. The Euros are popular because of a widespread sense of a shared identity. A collective sense of fellowship.

Max Kemp strongly disagreed. To him patriotism means xenophobia, hatred of foreigners / outsiders. Max thinks that we should focus on individualism. Collectivist passion leads to conflict and violence.

Hugo pointed out the spark, the unique passion and determination that is born of patriotism. Pride in your country is NOT the same as dislike of foreigners.

Mr Keddie pointed out that the passions ignited by the football can lead to attacks on passing strangers just because they are thought to be “foreigners”. That is NOT civilised people should be behaving.

Matthew Woodward (and a number of others) argued that patriotism is natural, and that it is also actively promoted by Governments, as shown by Brexit. Patriotism / support for your country is the inevitable product of a common language; a common culture, such as music and food; a common education system and syllabus; a shared history; and simple geography, such as Britain largely being an island, or Italy having sea on three sides and the Alps on the fourth.

Theo Barber argued that hatred of an entire nationality is irrational and damaging. Each group is composed of individuals who should not feel obliged to act collectively.

VOTE: 11 voted for the motion, 10 voted against.


The motion was “This House believes that the internet does more harm than good”.

Lexie Kemp argued that the internet is rife with stranger danger, it is unsafe and full of risk. Trigger warnings are ineffective. There is a lot of dangerous content and the various age controls are ineffective. Social media is particularly problematic and can easily lead to addiction.

Anand Munkhbayar strongly disagreed – he saw the internet as essential. Information, communication, commerce and services are all based in the internet, and that is only going to increase.

Lexie’s response was that she wants the internet to exist, but that it has to be regulated and properly controlled. Privacy is threatened by viruses and hacking and the recording of search history. Sofia Peon agreed – the internet is only good when you use it well / properly.

Gracie Miller pointed out that age classification is simply ineffective, and that screen addiction is a genuine problem.

Liam Bensi said that we all rely on the internet. Commerce is increasingly online. It is the sheer convenience of the internet that makes it indispensable now that we are all used to using it. We have uniquely high levels of access to information and we can communicate over huge distances instantly. The pandemic and lockdown has shown the vital importance of the internet – without it society could barely have carried on. Ruby Davies and Tom Bates both agreed with this.

Tilly English argued that it is the fault of the consumer if they allow themselves to be defrauded on the internet. They should take sensible precautions.

Noah Stanley argued that the internet is NOT vital. It has only existed for less than 30 years. Society carried on efficiently before it existed.

Jermey Vignalou Perer attacked the internet for inspiring hatred, trolling, stalking and online bullying. It is relentless, 24/7 and there is no escape. Privacy has been lost. There is a huge risk of fraud and a massive spread of misinformation.

Dominic Catterick pointed out that crime existed before the internet, and was not a unique product of the internet.

Goncalo Da Cal Martins and Digby Evans both argued that government control of the internet posed a huge threat to civil liberties, as shown by the actions of the Chinese government.

Dorothy Scoones said that we NEED the internet, but that there is far too much personal information being spread far too widely.

In contrast, Jacob Alford argued that some privacy is needed, but that the focus on privacy can go too far. We all need information.

VOTE: 10 voted in favour “the internet does more harm than good”. 11 voted against.

I was surprised by the suspicion and caution expressed by these year 7 students. They are all digital natives, but they are far from blindly supportive of the internet.

Week 8 (Begins 7th June)

“This House believes that reducing carbon emissions is more important that developing new technology in the climate change crisis”.

Year 7

Elsa Lane argued that limiting emissions is morally the correct thing to do, even if it is at cost of a lower economic standard of living. We cannot responsibly rely on the HOPE of new technology. We should make the polluter pay more, and tax carbon emissions more. We are faced with a crisis NOW – it is too risky and slow to rely on the hope of new technology. Immediate action is essential. We can already act to reduce emissions by tweaking the market – for example, by subsidising solar power more and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. We have to insist on manufacturing being low carbon and we must recycle much more. We have to change the way we live if we are to avoid handing a climate disaster to future generations. Elsa concluded by arguing that mental attitudes, such as a dedicated determination to reduce carbon emissions, are MORE important than anything else. We have to change the way we think. Economic growth that damages the environment is NOT progress and is NOT sustainable!

Macsen Morgan referred to the recent Shell legal case when a Dutch judge told Shell to accelerate the speed with which it is decarbonising its manufacturing processes. He argued that we need to do BOTH – cut down on emissions AND develop new technology. He called for a bigger tax break for green industries, and for the electricity baseload to be reliably produced by nuclear power – wind and solar are too weather dependent. Nuclear IS green! Jun Howard pointed out that new technologies will be essential if we are to maintain, or raise, our existing living standards. We have already developed new technologies in the past, and we are capable of doing so again if we make it sufficiently attractive to carry out research and development. Our living standards improved in the past thanks to new technology – proving the pessimism of Thomas Malthus to have been wrong. We will HAVE to continue to use some Carbon, life is inconceivable without it. Simply to stop polluting practices without developing new technologies would inevitably mean lower living standards – what would YOU be willing to give up? Rory Goss agreed that we must do BOTH. He had faith in human ingenuity and in the human ability to come up with novel solutions to climate change problems.

VOTE: The motion was defeated by 3 votes to 1.

Week 6 (Begins 17th May)

“This House thinks that religion causes division and damages human society.”

Year 7

Macsen Morgan strongly agreed with the motion. He claimed that 90% of all wars in history have been caused by religion, which is still a major cause of wars today – in Kosovo, the Middle East, and Northern Ireland. He claimed that proselytising (converting others) caused tension, leading to unrest and even genocide. Religion leads to social exclusivity and division. The church is only of value as a social meeting point – like a golf club. The morals being promoted by religion are generally good, setting a good example, but human society is capable of adopting good moral values without religion, and religion has often pursued very dubious morality in the past. He can find a sense of togetherness outside religion, for example in the Scouts. Admittedly, we are now a more diverse society than in the past, so there is less of a sense of social community today than there was in the past. Theocracy is a bad thing (eg Iran) because religion removes any sense of self accountability. Religion should not interfere with the social order.

Anand Munkhbayar argued that humankind has advanced beyond the need for religion. Religion is merely a question answering process that is no longer needed. Most basic questions can be answered by science, so that the teachings of the Church are largely irrelevant. Therefore religion is merely a bereavement supporting and coping mechanism, comforting but unnecessary. Religion WAS integral to society but is now outdated. It has acted as an obstacle to technological change for many years. Anand did recognise that there are currently high rates of suicide and depression, that modern life keeps us apart, and that we feel more isolated than ever. Anand sees the solution to be in the form of Humanism and Utilitarianism. Jun Howard agreed that religion encourages division through discrimination. He argued that a rational scientific method was NOT compatible with religion and that religion is an obstacle to scientific progress and enquiry. Scientists no longer come from churches. This view was challenged by others. Rory Goss argued that religion can cause discrimination, but that it can also be a source of social good and social cohesion. Many positive social forces and charities are founded on a sense of religious duty and on religiously inspired morality. Religion can challenge and overcome the modern tendency to social isolation and selfish individualism.

VOTE: 3 in favour of the motion to only 1 against. 


Week 4 (begins 11th May)

“This House believes that education should be restricted to purely STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).”

Year 7

Rory Goss argued strongly against the motion, saying that it was less than human to ignore poetry, and that it would be extremely unhealthy to ignore sport and physical wellbeing, as this would make mass obesity even worse. There would be lots of unemployed teachers of non STEM subjects and huge shortages of teachers in STEM. There is no need for engineering and technology in year 7 – or at least only limited need. Certainly students should be given much more choice of a range of subjects. It is ridiculous that STEM does not include English (both oral and written English is fundamental) or any humanities subjects. Rory pointed out that STEM jobs and skills are too same-y. It would be boring to ban reading for fun. He agrees that Engineering is undervalued. Whilst Maths is well paid there is only a limited number of jobs dependent on advanced Maths skills. Science is also well paid, but STEM should not be at the expense of humanities subjects.

Josh Wilkinson suggested that subjects like Religious Studies were pointless and should be removed from the curriculum.

Jun Howard pointed out the importance of teaching morality in schools and of socialising as students discover what their interests are. Few non STEM subjects can be easily automated for remote teaching. There will only be a limited future supply of STEM jobs and education should not be purely vocational. We don’t actually know what skills will be in demand in the future, and we need to develop lots of different skills.

Macsen Morgan argued STEM is where the jobs will be, that these skills are future proof. Other jobs are in danger of dying out – for example there are NO cashier staff in Amazon Go shops. He personally did not think studying poetry was very interesting or productive. However, he also presented a counter argument that the top five jobs in 40 years’ time don’t actually exist at the moment and that it is very arrogant of STEM enthusiasts to assume that STEM is exclusively what is needed. Remote teaching has exposed the importance of pastoral care, ethos and life education. There are lots of different skills that are needed. Exclusive STEM suggests a lack of creativity, implying largely learning by rote.

VOTE: The motion was rejected by 3 votes to 1.

Year 6

Kitty Wright argued that English is absolutely vital – the ability to read and write to a high degree of fluency is essential. History IS important.  Lots of current (and future) jobs are NOT centred on STEM. Exclusively learning STEM would be a mistake, and would NOT be a reflection of the jobs available. That said, she agreed that STEM subjects DO need more school time, there should be more emphasis on STEM, but school should NOT be exclusively STEM.

Grace Jeckells chose to argue FOR the motion. Students already know English, and it is reinforced at home. There is no need to know about history / the past. Technology is GOOD, and greater focus on on it would be a more realistic reflection of the future world that we will be working in. MORE STEM is needed (although not necessarily exclusively STEM).

Mia Saltissi challenged Grace’s view. In the real world you need to be able to read and write to a good standard. English (and History) should be kept, but with more focus on STEM than at present, so that students can keep up with a more STEM orientated world.

Anna Holt argued that there is no need for Latin as it is simply a dead language. However, in reality there are lots of non STEM jobs and education should NOT be largely vocational. Every subject has some value in the real world. Indeed, more subjects should be added. Clearly STEM is necessary, but so are all other subjects. For example, a lawyer is not primarily relying on STEM taught skills.

Yafet Filmon wanted to keep school generally the way it is, but with a bit more technology from year 9 onwards. You can learn STEM as needed in Years 12 and 13 or at university. English is VITAL (reading and writing) and cultural / social skills need to be taught, as well as PE / sport.

Edward Callan wanted some STEM orientated, specialised schools and other non STEM schools. Pupils should be free to choose. However, he recognised the need for more STEM in non specialised schools. The world is becoming more technological and needs more STEM, but also more focus on other skills – such as cooking lessons.

Nahom Yoseph recognised that you need STEM to be able to be a doctor, but that you also need to be able to communicate. “All knowledge is power” so non STEM subjects have definite value. Lots of people don’t use much STEM in their daily working lives. A wide range of subjects at school is a good thing.

VOTE: The motion (in favour of STEM only education) was defeated by 7 votes to 0.

Week 3 (begins 26th April)

“The motion is that private schools should be abolished”.

Numbers were down (possibly a consequence of good weather, football on the field, and competition from drone club) but the enthusiasm of the participants was very high! Both Year 6 and Year 7 are currently taking part in an internal competitive debating process so this is good practice.

Year 7

Max Essery argued that nothing would be gained from abolition, it would merely be a process of levelling down.  He approved of high eduational standards based on selection. He thought that private schools made fee paying parents more committed to the education of their children. He thought that it was an encouraging, good , thing to want to spend money on education, and he also pointed out that private schools offer charitable fully funded places in cases of financial hardship.

This view was challenged by others, who argued that private schools offer an unfair advantage to the wealthy, allowing them to buy opportunities not deserved on merit, and leading to the perpetuation of social inequality.

Rory Goss argued that there was no real difference between private schools and grammar schools – both are based on selection, as opposed to being “comprehensive”.

The motion was defeated (so NO abolition) by 2 votes to 1.

Year 6

The motion was proposed by Grace Jeckells, who presented a strong criticism of private schools;

  1. They give unfair advantages to those who attend them, leading to inequality of academic opportunity. This is bad for both talented individuals who cannot afford private education and for society as a whole.
  2. They also give unfair advantages in terms of sports and extra curricular facilities.
  3. Selection is unfair because of so many being tutored for the entrance exams.
  4. Private schools tend to get more specialist subject teachers and a wider range of subject choices.
  5. Private schools can be bad for siblings – it is bad for a family if one child gets in but a brother or sister does not. Grace also wanted to abolish Grammar schools for the same reason.
  6. It is bad for an individual child to feel that they have been rejected / “failed” at age ten or eleven.
  7. Grace thought that a comprehensive school is a reflection the real world, or the society we are going to be living in, so that we should learn to get along with others different from ourselves.

Others pointed out that many private schools offer scholarships and bursaries, so reducing financial disadvantage, but Grace countered by pointing out the comparatively tiny scale of bursaries, and that the loss of the brightest drags down the standard of the rest at the comprehensive.

In opposition to this attack on private schools, Kitty Wright pointed out the practical problem of how to alter the state sector to provide places for all those private pupils whose schools would be abolished. She pointed out that not all private schools are selective. She argued strongly against a “levelling down” agenda which would mean lower standards for all. Above all, she argued that people should be free to choose how they spend their own money. Private property right should be respected. Private school parents have already paid for a state school place (through their taxes). She pointed out the hypocrisy of many of those who call for abolition, but still send their own children to private schools. Many private schools do provide scholarships and bursaries to help poorer families, at very considerable cost.

Finally, she pointed out that there was already a post code lottery, and no such thing as genuinely comprehensive schools – areas in which housing is more expensive tend to end up with financially better off, and often more conscientious, pupils at the local comprehensive school, which then gains a favourable reputation, driving house prices even higher and reducing the size of their catchment area further.

The debate was enjoyed by all. 

Week 2 (begins 19th April)

“This House thinks that the “Precautionary Principle” is ALWAYS the correct way to take decisions.”

Year 7

Macsen Morgan argued that the Precautionary principle is stupid in an emergency – it is silly to refuse to act because of a tiny, unproven, potential risk when failing to act means a much greater risk.  The blood clot risk from Astra Zeneca is no more than a long distance flight – it is a very rare side effect which should be ignored given the beneficial effects.  We have to be willing to take risks, even though people don’t like to be blamed for things.  Of course there is a risk of media misrepresentation, it is vital that information must be honest and open.  Failure to be open and honest will inevitably increase suspicion and vaccine hesitancy.

Rory Goss agreed, pointing out that the kitchen is the most dangerous room in the house, but we still go into it.  There is no such thing as 100% safety, and it cannot be tested or assured.  Doing nothing in the current pandemic is worse than taking action – vaccinating with Astra Zeneca.  The problem is that the public don’t understand relative risks, and the media are very bad at explaining relative risk.

Oscar von Sembach pointed out that lethal things like guns and knives are legal and are not banned.  Astra Zeneca is the most easily stored and transported vaccine in the world and can save many lives across the world if only given the chance.  Oscar simply could not understand why people would reject the Astra Zeneca vaccine.  He thought that in the modern age information cannot be kept suppressed.

Jun Howard took a different view.  Astra Zeneca SHOULD be banned, at least temporarily, as there are alternative vaccines available that also do a good job without the same minor risk of blood clotting.   Governments should report potential concerns / side effects BUT should do so in a very responsible way which highlights comparative risks.

Elsa Lane pointed out that ALL life contains risk.  There is no such thing as absolute safety.  It is much less risky to take the vaccine than it is to reject it.  Concentrating unduly on potential risks threatens to increase vaccine denial.  Yet at the same time it is essential to be transparent and open about problems.

Vote: The motion was DEFEATED (the universal precautionary principle was rejected) by 5 votes to 0. 

Year 6

Kitty Wright pointed out that life ALWAYS involves some risk.  There are some risks associated with all medicine.  Unless some risk is accepted you would never walk downstairs or go sailing or cross the road.  Potential problems need to be acknowledged, but in a responsible and proportionate way.

Grace Jeckells recognised that some risk is inevitable, but also that NOT following the precautionary principle COULD lead to more vaccine hesitancy.  It is essential to publicise the relative risks – a 1 in a million chance of a blood clot compared to a 1 in 800 chance is dying of Covid 19.  What MIGHT be a risk versus doing nothing.  The current dire national emergency needs a different way of looking at things.  Swift and decisive action is needed NOW.

Vote: The motion was DEFEATED (the universal precautionary principle was rejected) by 2 votes to 0.