Pupils at a Dagenham school finished runners-up in a national debating competition.

The Sydney Russell School finished ahead of 129 teams across the UK in the Debate Mate competition, discussing curing malaria inspired by lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the final, they debated how education can help beat malaria - which claims a child’s life every two minutes - against the West Midlands’ Shireland Collegiate Academy.

In front of a virtual audience of more than 300 people, the Dagenham pupils argued for the proposition that the best way to cure the disease is education.

The event on April 22 was hosted by former Strictly Come Dancing winner Ore Oduba and judged by a panel including TV presenter and campaigner Charlie Webster, who survived the disease four years ago, Professor James Logan and young malaria reporters from Sierra Leone.

Ms Webster, who contracted malaria while cycling across Brazil for charity, said: “Everybody communicated beautifully, they were so passionate and showed that it’s so important we’re not just talking about statistics and science but also the people affected too.

"It’s vital we continue to raise awareness and keep up the fight so that we can be the generation that sees the end of malaria in our lifetime.”

The competition was held ahead of World Malaria Day on April 25.

It was part of a Comic Relief and GlaxoSmithKline partnership to fight malaria and inspire the next generation to take action and raise awareness of the disease.

Comic Relief chief executive Samir Patel said: “These strong debates have empowered students to use their first-hand experience of life during the pandemic to relate to the urgency and seriousness of the malaria health crisis.

“Malaria can be beaten and by actively engaging students on this issue and emphasising our shared global experiences we can make a real difference in raising awareness."