Dagenham pupils score debating triumph in national contest

Students from Mount St Mary's School and Robert Clack School with Ife Grillo, Tina Deheley, Emma Tho

Students from Mount St Mary's School and Robert Clack School with Ife Grillo, Tina Deheley, Emma Thompson, George the Poet, Bill Gates, Jamal Edwards, Jon Snow and Ore Oduba (Picture: Gary Moyes) - Credit: Gary Moyes

A Dagenham school has clinched victory in a nationwide debating competition – witnessed by billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates.

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Gates (Picture: Jeff Spicer/Comic Relief)

Entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Gates (Picture: Jeff Spicer/Comic Relief) - Credit: Jeff Spicer/Comic Relief

The Robert Clack School of Science triumphed in Thursday’s closely-fought debating final at the Royal Institution in Mayfair against Mount St Mary’s Catholic High School from Leeds.

The two teams sparred over the motion ‘this house believes that for people in developing countries, the world is getting better’, with the victorious Robert Clack team arguing in favour.

Tech entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Gates sat among the audience for the final, which was judged by a star-studded panel including actress Emma Thompson and journalist Jon Snow, and hosted by TV presenter and Strictly Come Dancing winner Ore Oduba.

Hannah Hamid, teacher at the Green Lane school, said: “These students come from quite an economically deprived area and opportunities like this give them the opportunity to address really important matters.

“They’ve articulated themselves in such an eloquent manner and they’ve tackled issues in a very mature way. For them it’s an incredible opportunity.”

The final was the climax of a series of debates between schools, sponsored by Comic Relief and organised by Debate Mate, which runs debating clubs in areas of high child poverty.