Introducing debating

Resource pack section 1A


The Debating Matters Competition has been running in schools since 2002. From its inception, Debating Matters has championed a different approach to schools debating, one where substance is emphasised over style, and young people are taken seriously. Interaction, and a critical engagement with both the topics and one another, lie at the heart of the competition’s format and offer students a unique intellectual challenge. Students are required to conduct in-depth research, to examine the merits of competing perspectives in a debate and to question their own viewpoints. There is no false flattery in the Debating Matters Competition, rather, through a dynamic interaction with the judging panel and the audience during debates, students are held to account on their arguments, challenged to substantiate their case and encouraged to delve deeper in to key contemporary questions. Students are applauded for their successes and critiqued for their weaknesses. In the words of former participant, Sam Burt: “Debating Matters is a short, sharp shock that can jolt smart young things out of their complacency and onto a more rewarding path of independent thought.” For further details on the format see section 2.



Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Faversham “What younger students really need is a clear focus, which is why I start them off on the Debating Matters topic guides and format straight away. Debates on animal experimentation, competitive sport, film and videogame censorship have been big hits with this age group. Even if the students don’t grasp the deeper philosophical arguments in these debates, they have plenty of concrete, factual material to work with”.

“EACH DEBATER HAS AT LEAST A WEEK TO PREPARE” Ben Morse, Assistant Head of Sixth Form, The Piggott School, Reading

“Every season we run a few meetings, getting interested students together. I give them a list of issues and tell them to prepare and perform a one minute speech arguing passionately for, or against. The list changes each year and has a mixture of serious and silly topics – from abortions to Marmite. This is a nice gentle lead in, can give everyone some laughs and allows you to gauge strengths and weaknesses. After that, we pick our motions which are always DM motions. Each debater has at least a week to prepare, and posters are put up to advertise when and where”.

“THE SCHOOL HAS NEVER HAD A DEBATING CLUB BEFORE” Meg Franklin, Teacher, William Ellis School, London

“I started at my school in September and quickly set up a debating club. The school has never had a debating club before, so I knew that I would have to publicise it well. I started by getting my Sixth Form Politics students interested and found that they were happy to help organise it. I have had good levels of participation, but I still want to get greater numbers attending, especially from younger years. It’s great to see the boys enjoying it though; arguing, disagreeing, airing their opinions and, generally, getting to grips with some relevant and interesting topics”.

“I STARTED SMALL WITH A CLUB THAT LOOKED AT THE BIG TOPICS IN THE NEWS” Ben Harding, Head of Sixth Form, Beckfoot School, Bradford

“I started small with a club that looked at the big topics in the news. It was a talking shop that allowed them to listen and express ideas. One initial barrier for some of our students was just the stigma attached to debating and debate clubs, and so we kept it very informal. When we got the topics right the classroom was packed and there was a real buzz to the sessions. The students that started that group in Year 7 are now the Year 13s that have just qualified for the Debating Matters final, and the seeds that we sowed early on have been key to their later drive and enthusiasm”.

→ to section 1B