Manor Park teen becomes first state school student to win Eton College debating competition

PUBLISHED: 17:13 23 November 2017 | UPDATED: 18:12 23 November 2017

Selina Begum scopped the Eton debating compeititon. Picture credit: Imiller

Selina Begum scopped the Eton debating compeititon. Picture credit: Imiller

A Newham teenager has become the first state school student to win the individual prize in a prestigious Eton debating competition.

Mouhssin Ismail is the principal of Newham Collegiate Sixth Form. Picture credit: Tom Barnes. Mouhssin Ismail is the principal of Newham Collegiate Sixth Form. Picture credit: Tom Barnes.

Selina Begum, from Manor Park, was judged best debater ahead of 200 pupils, many of whom study at the country’s top independent schools including Eton College, as well as Winchester College and Westminster.

The 16-year-old, who is studying A Level in maths, economics, politics and history at Newham Collegiate Sixth Form, beat her fee-paying rivals in motion debates on junk food and rights to privacy and in a prepared argument on the abolition of the death penalty in the US.

She said preparation from the sixth form’s dedicated debate coordinator Jerome Singh was the key to her success.

She said: “It was intimidating. The students from Eton and the other really independent schools were so confident. They got up and spoke without notes and seemed like they had been doing it all their lives.

“But Mr Singh told me not to be scared, that my arguments were just as well thought out as theirs.”

“Before I came here, I had done some debating at my school both nothing on this scale.”

Selina, who hopes to read history at Oxford University, added: “It makes me so happy to realise that despite my background I can compete with pupils at these types of schools.”

Newham Collegiate Sixth Form hit the headlines last summer when their former City lawyer principal Mouhssin Islam helped 95 per cent students win places at Russell Group Universities.

He said: “When I spoke to journalists last summer, I said there was no reason why a pupil from East Ham couldn’t compete with those at Eton.

“Not only are our students competing with these students they are actually now beating them.

“There has been lots of talk about the lack of state school students going to Oxbridge but this year we are aiming to send at least 20.

“If you give the students the right opportunities then there are places available.”

The Eton Autumn Invitational was held at Eton College last week.

Teachers at the school judged the competition.

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