Student debaters from a school in Bushey claimed top prizes in what has been dubbed ‘the toughest debating competition in the country’.

Sixth form students Panashe Zharare and Sophie Gregory from Queen’s School were awarded Best Individual prizes after the school reached the quarter finals of the Institute of Ideas Debating Matters Competition 2015, which took place between Friday, June 26 and Sunday, June 28 at the British Library.

But despite their sharp ideas and broad approach to the topics, Queen’s School only managed to win one of their opening two debates in the quarter final stage.

Although the school did not make the final debates, the judges picked out Miss Zharare as Highly Commended Individual and Miss Gregory won the Gina Owens Memorial Prize, which was awarded to the student who displays the ability to think outside the box.

Queen’s School prepared for over a month for the weekend and posed the arguments that space exploration is not a waste of time and money, and that we should embrace the advent of three-parent IVF.

Queen’s lost to eventual finalists Douglas Academy from Milngavie in Glasgow on the space exploration debate.

Beckfoot School from Bradford went on to win the final debate and be crowned National Champions 2015.

On the night, Miss Zharare said: "I’m shocked. I only came here to make people panic but I’ve met so many great and intelligent people with good arguments and ideas.

"This really is an inspirational event."

A unique feature of the Debating Matters Competition is the grilling the debaters face, first from a panel of expert judges, who question them on their arguments and challenge them to defend their research and thinking, and then from the audience.

The judges examine the students’ ability to research a topic and their response to questioning when their ideas are put under intellectual pressure - with ultimately content ruling over style.

The judges also give the debaters feedback on their performance.

Hari Sundaresan, chief procurement officer for BT, who judged the final, said: "I’m terrified that one day these students will be my boss.

"The students in Debating Matters are so smart that every time I judge I’m petrified they will embarrass me.

"This scares me more than BT board meetings."