A school in Bushey narrowly lost out at the east regional final of the Institute of Ideas Debating Matters Competition this week, but pupils said they "loved the experience".
Queens' School, in Aldenham Road, faced five other schools from around the region when the debate took place on Tuesday.
Arguing against the motion ‘The UK should Ban the Smacking of Children’, the school won their first debate against Sponne School from Northamptonshire and narrowly missed out on a place in the grand final, beaten in their second debate by Langley School from Norwich.
Kevin Rooney, deputy head of Sixth Form, said he was proud of the hard work his pupils put in to their preparation - including training during half term. He said: "I am totally proud of the team’s achievement. They put so much into their preparation and really burnt the midnight oil for this.
"Although we did not get through to the next stage, the pupils have learnt valuable lesson and this has got them thinking.
"They are spurred on and have the enthusiasm to continue debating.
"To see them up there against competitive schools with their passion, enthusiasm and vigour did me proud.
"In an education system that is obsessed with exams, it is great to see pupils gain real experiences in situations like this, and I have to thank the head for making that possible."
Debaters had to answer a series of difficult questions from a panel of judges and members of the audience.
Supported in the region by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the all-day debate contest saw the Cambridge Research Institute transformed in to a hotbed of ideas and discussion, as well as world-class research.
Queens’ has had a long-term winning streak, having made it through to the national final five times in the last 11 years, more than any other school.
The debating team was made up of Becky Robson, Sophie Lewis, Kirsty Henley-Washford, Sophie Gregory and Harry Cutmore.
Harry Cutmore studies English literature, history, politics and maths. He hopes to get a degree in politics before he changes the world.
The 17-year-old said: "I loved the whole experience. Although we didn’t get through, it felt like all the hard work paid off.
"I am humbled by the fact we were able to take part. It was an amazing experience and would love to do again.
"I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity. The passion of our teacher really rubbed off and it was a great day.
Becky Robson studies psychology, English literature and politics and was taking part in her third debate.
The 18-year-old said: "It was a very tough competition - we were up against boarding schools. The questions were very tough but we did well. We all worked very hard in preparation. Although we didn’t win I will definitely keep debating.
"When I start University I will try and join the debating team. I love debating - I like the challenge and experience."
Queens' has a popular debating session every Friday with around 100 pupils attending from year 7 to 13.