Hackney Lad Proves You Don’t Have To Go To Eton To Be On National Debate Team


A young man has defied the odds and managed to make it onto Team England’s national debate team, to compete at the World Schools Debating Championships.

17 year-old Ife Grillo goes to school at Bridge Academy in Hackney, east London, which has 54 per cent of pupils on free school meals, and 44 per cent of pupils don’t speak English as their first language.

Ife’s other four team members come from a slightly more privileged upbringing. All four come from private schools like Eton, Dulwich College and Westminster, and the team is usually dominated by private school kids.

Ife managed to get on the team thanks to Debate Mate, an organisation that helps kids from schools with above average Free School Meals rates, and “tackles educational disadvantage” by getting them involved with debate competitions.

The clever lad’s beaten Eton students in debates before, and was a youth MP for Shoreditch.

He told the Huffington Post:

Finding out I made the England Team was one of the best days of my life. Debate Mate getting involved in my school absolutely changed my life and I owe them a lot. Debating is very private school dominated, and by extension there are very few ethnic minorities. The reality is that that is often how things are at the top of any profession, and it taught me that sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone to reach success.

Debate Mate CEO and founder Margaret McCabe added that he was proud of Ife, who is Debate Mate’s first student to be selected for Team England.

He said:

I set up Debate Mate to create social mobility with real impacts. Now we teach 6,000 children a week.

Team England have been world champions twice in the last ten years, most recently in 2014. However, if Grillo and the rest of the team want to win again this year, they’ll have to fend off the current champions Singapore.

What an inspirational guy! And best of luck to Team England at the championships.