Students at Ormiston Ilkeston Enterprise Academy took part in a national debating competition held at the University of Oxford.
Twelve Year 10 students were selected to represent the academy at the contest held by the Ormiston Academies Trust.
The students from OIEA were split into two groups and they debated against other schools from across the country.
Subjects up for discussion included should children under-18 be allowed to vote and should celebrities be given harsher punishments if they commit a crime.
Students either spoke for or against the subject and they were given five minutes to develop their ideas before they decided who was going to speak, sum up or help.
Lottie Hardy, 15, said: “It was a really good experience. It’s the first time we’d done anything like this and it went well. You were awarded points for your style, strategy, structure, content and how professional you were. It was a really high standard and we made it through to the second round.
“The university was a great place and before we might have thought that it would be unrealistic to think we could go there but now we see that it is actually a possibility.”
Joel Uveges, 15, said: “It wasn’t easier to be for or against; if you were good enough then you should have been able to argue either way.”
Wyman Hy, 15, said: “In our team there were four speakers and two helpers. When you are talking the students from the opposing team are allowed to raise a point and you can either reject or accept it.”
Students had spent time after school practicing for the competition and they took part in a workshop with DebateMate, which offers a range of competitions and programmes to participating schools, along with training and workshops for teachers and students.
They learnt about tone of voice, body language, rebuttal and team-building as part of the workshop.
Zoe Green, English teacher at Ormiston Ilkeston Enterprise Academy, said she was extremely proud of the students.
She said: “They were just so confident and they owned the room when they were speaking, it was amazing to see their confidence coming out.
“On the way home they were taking about Oxford and university in general. They were nervous about going there as there is a sense of mystery and prestige about the place but when they were there they realised that they could be worthy of a place.
“They didn’t win the competition but one of the students said they won in so many other ways because of the whole experience that they’d had. We wanted them to see that they are capable of anything.”