By Nashwa Shah.

OXFORD teenagers invited a woman who believes the Earth is flat to speak at their school, and admitted they found her presentation surprisingly convincing.

The pupils in the Conspiracy Theory Club at Headington School invited Emily Withey to speak at their last meeting of the term.

The two-hour 'conspiracy marathon' proved a hit as members of the club shared their research on a range of theories including Paul McCartney’s supposed death in 1966 and David Bowie’s predictions of the future.

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However, many said the highlight was Emily Withey, a self-proclaimed 'Flat Earther', who engaged students and teachers at the meeting.

One Headington School student, Hannah McGuinness, said: "The speaker changed my opinion on the whole movement.

Oxford Mail:

A map of a flat Earth.

"It’s very misrepresented in the media, the idea of a ‘dome-shaped Earth’ is a lot more plausible."

The 17-year-old said she found the idea that the Earth being round was an international government conspiracy fascinating, adding: "I’m less convinced that the Earth is round than I was before."

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Miss Withey, 17, is a student from Oxford who regularly attends Sands Theatre Arts School in Wheatley.

A member of the official Flat Earth Society, she told the meeting on June 19 that she had believed that the Earth is flat for more than two years.

Oxford Mail:

The Flat Earth Society's official logo.

Explaining her beliefs, Miss Withey started by saying that the main misconception about the theory of a flat Earth is the idea that believers think the world is a completely flat disc.

In fact, she explained, most adherents believe the surface of the Earth is flat, but that it is domed underneath, like half an orange.

To support this idea, Miss Withey cited a famous test carried out known as the Bedford Level Experiment.

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This experiment was repeatedly performed on a six-mile stretch of water in Norfolk between 1838 and 1904, and showed the water’s surface to be flat at rest.

Flat Earthers say this is worthy evidence, as the water does not appear to conform to the curvature of the Earth.

Miss Withey also presented the Arctic Treaty of 1959 which bans all explorers, geographers or people without government permission to enter a specific part of Antarctica, close to its ‘edge’.

Theorists conclude that the key to unlocking the mystery of the Earth’s shape must be ‘hidden’ here, dubbing it ‘Area 51’s twin’.

Oxford Mail:

Students at Headington had mixed reactions to the evening's discussion.

Although the idea is ridiculed, it has grown to become a popular conspiracy theory: according to its website, since 2009 the Flat Earth Society says it has grown by 200 new members yearly, from ‘all around the globe’.

Even Oxford University has its own society, OxFlat, which debates the sphere with frequent social media posts sharing ‘diagrams’.

The evening at Headington School ended with a question-and-answer session with Miss Withey taking challenging questions from both staff and students.

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She said afterwards: "I agreed to do this to break the stigma surrounding the world’s biggest conspiracy theory. This is a theory, just as round earth is also a theory."

The evening's discussion divided the audience, with many refusing to accept the evidence presented.

However Hannah Lewis, 17, said: "The ideas now sound slightly more realistic with interesting points. I learnt a lot about flat Earth theories but I wasn’t totally convinced."

The club has now begun searching for its next controversial guest.

In a statement, Headington School stressed that it did not endorse the Flat Earth theory, but said it was valuable for girls to be able to learn about - and challenge - controversial views.

A spokeswoman said: "At Headington we are proud to offer girls many opportunities to lead and even start their own clubs and activities. Our new conspiracy club was created and is led by our sixth form students.

"While the school, of course, does not endorse the Flat Earth Society’s viewpoint and ample information and evidence about the Earth’s geography is provided elsewhere within the curriculum, we do believe that there is value for our students to hear differing and controversial views and to have an opportunity to interrogate and challenge those beliefs and, where appropriate, debunk them.

"As a school we offer a wide range of debating opportunities for girls of all ages, from participation in the Model United Nations to debating in French. Developing excellent debating and speaking skills includes the ability to argue a viewpoint which you do not yourself hold and this speaker no doubt provided students with that opportunity."