The Great Debate 2020 – The final!

And the winner is...

By Paula Kitching, published 4th December 2020

Can't see the video? Download it here

Thomas Locke won the Great Debate 2020 Final

And the winner is:

Thomas Locke Portsmouth Grammar School

Runner up: James Lester The Judd School

Honourable mentions:

Eleanor Clark Exeter School

Meg Wishart Broxburn Academy

This year the final was a little different but just as fantastic as previous years. With all the teenage finalists presenting a range of strong and powerful arguments to address the question:

‘Should we judge historical figures by the morals of today?'. 

Fortunately, all of the regional heats had taken place across the UK before the first lockdown came into effect last spring, however that meant the final that was scheduled for the end of March could not go ahead.

Therefore, like so many other things this year we went digital. The talks were still delivered by the participants but in their own homes or schools and sent to us in advance. The judges viewed them in the days before the live final when each speaker was asked a question about their talk.  The judges then decided upon the winners.

Despite this unusual way to host a final the end result still produced a real buzz, some excitement and some excellent responses from the young people to the questions posed.

All the judges remarked on the strong calibre of entrants and at how difficult it was select a winner.  In the end it came down how well Thomas and James both understood and articulated the historical dimensions and of their arguments. The winner was particularly good at drawing out the reasoning behind his conclusions.

Have a look at a collection of all those that took part in the final below.

Can't see the video? Download it here

The Historical Association and the judges would like to thank all those who helped to make the Great Debate 2020 possible this year.

The Great Debate will return in the autumn of 2021. 


The Great Debate encourages schools and students to get involved in public speaking.    It is a debating competition for students in the UK & Ireland aged between 16 and 18.  Students have 5 minutes to produce a speech on the set question. The question changes each year. Heats are held around the country in the autumn and spring term with the final held in lat