St Francis Xavier’s debaters, Matthew Handley and Matthew Oldham have achieved yet another astonishing result in a high-profile debating contest. At the Oxford Schools Debating Competition on March 12th the two Matthews secured overall team victory as well as being named best individual speakers.

Schools Debating Competition Chief Adjudicator, Mr Jonathan Leader Maynard of University College Oxford, has written to SFX Headteacher, Mr Rippon, to extend his congratulations to the school for this remarkable double achievement, describing Handley and Oldham as “exceptionally talented”.

“For schools which are relatively new to debating like St. Francis Xavier’s to achieve such success at one of the very best schools competitions in the world is a truly outstanding achievement,” said Mr Leader Maynard.

“Particular congratulations should, of course, go to Matthew and Matthew. They are exceptionally talented individuals who, as I am sure you are aware, not only won the competition, but finished 1st and 2nd best speaker on the final tabulated results. It is very rare for the winning team to also occupy the top two positions in the speaker rankings in this way. I am aware that Matthew Handley has been selected for the England World Schools team this year – another exceptional achievement. But I personally judged your team in Round 1 of this year’s finals day, in which, as I told him on the day, Matthew Oldham gave the single best speech I have ever seen by a school student in some five years of judging these competitions. While I am sure you are extremely proud of these students, talented debaters only get the opportunities that headmasters and senior staff open for them and that their debate coaches help train them for. You and your school deserve the very highest praise for your crucial roles in supporting their superb performances last weekend,” he continued.


Handley and Oldham fought off stiff competition from debaters from some of the nation’s top schools including Eton, St Paul’s and The Cheltenham Ladies’ College.

However, Matthew and Matthew have had little time to reflect on their victory at Oxford as March 19th saw the boys travel up to the Durham Schools Debating Competition. Their coach, Mrs Boughey, of SFX’s English Department, was delighted with their latest performance against schools from as far afield as Canada. In Durham, Handley and Oldham secured 1st and 2nd place on the table of individual speakers – another most commendable achievement.

Meanwhile it’s not just the A-Team of Handley and Oldham making the headlines, the SFX B-Team debaters, Jonathan Mitchell and Daniel Keeley, have also proved themselves to be formidable adversaries in the debating arena achieving a creditable 9th place out of 108 teams at the Durham Schools Competition. In fact, at a recent competition in Manchester the B-Team beat the A-Team in an early round debate on the use of aerial drones in Afghanistan. Watch your heels Handley and Oldham!

The SFX teams are now preparing for the MACE England final, to be held in the English Speaking Union’s headquarters in London on the 1st April, and the ‘Debating Matters’ national final taking place at the Royal Society of Medicine over the weekend of the 1st and 2nd of July. The boys have already netted £500 worth of books for the school from this competition in the northern final and are hoping to return with further rewards from the final stages of this prestigious competition.

You can watch our exclusive interview with members of SFX’s renowned debating team by clicking on the video links.