The Debating club

We all know: "The importance of learning public speaking for young people today - that students who develop public speaking skills have a skill for life” (Mrs. Andries). This is why our school decided to start a Debating Club. The idea came from an article published in 'The Washington Post’ which explained that debating is needed for educational progress, for work and for full participation in democracy.

Our school was really amazed about the enormous response from the pupils. After so many applications the debate started thanks to Mr. Kehoe who has organized it with the help of other teachers. It was a program held during ten weeks (every Tuesday from January 20th to March 24th) at lunch time in the Prefabs. During this period all 72 students of years 4,5 and 6 who applied could participate in the debate. Furthermore everyone in the school who wanted to could go and watch it.

Because of the large number of people, we were divided into three groups. Every week each group had a different motion to discuss, for instance "This house would allow free distribution of music and films on the internet” or "This house believes that human nature is inherently good”. For some of the motions debaters really had to prepare themselves well and find documents and information about the discussion if they wanted to have good arguments. As an example, for the motion: "This house would force every country in the world to be democratic”, debaters needed some information about the current political situation of countries around the world. Therefore it was also an opportunity to learn new things.


Each student was given his assignment week by week. Those assignments can be summarized as indicated in the following table:

Prime Minister
Leader of the Opposition
Deputy Minister
Deputy Leader of the Opposition
Government Whip
Opposition Whip
Member of Parliament
Member of the Opposition


Defining a motion before you start is fundamental when you debate in order to avoid  problems of misunderstanding.

Each team, through three main arguments that the first three speakers develop, is sustaining or opposing a motion. The fourth speaker for each team summarizes the arguments of his team and tells the guests why they should vote for their team.
The Prime Minister is the first person to speak. Their job is to define the motion, introduce the arguments of the team and develop one of those arguments.

Subsequently it is the turn of the Leader of the Opposition who has to attack the proposition arguments by pointing out their flaws, and introducing their arguments.

The Deputy Minister then tries to refute the opposition arguments and develops another one of his team. This cycle is then continued.

At the end of the debate, members of the audience have to vote for a team and decide who wins, according to who debated best.

Obviously it is better if the members of a team communicate with each other to establish who should say what.

Every speaker had four minutes to present and develop their points:
The first minute was protected time in which the speaker could not be interrupted.
The next two minutes of the time were unprotected, meaning that members of the opposing team or members of the audience could ask questions which the speaker could accept or reject.
The final minute was protected time again.

In the final week, week ten, the last debate took place: 4 students debated against 4 adults, teachers or parents, in front of all the students who had participated in the debates. This year’s final motion was: "This house believes that teachers should be replaced by robots.”

I personally think the club was really well organized; in fact I learned a lot through it. What I really liked was that after every debate the teachers sent us an email where they explained what could be improved and how, giving us some really useful ideas and links about debates.

In my opinion it has been a great and useful opportunity for learning to debate, for opening our minds and for reminding us that there are always two or more main points of view in an argument. This club was about getting used to talking in front of people, training to make relatively long speeches, quickly answering  to tricky questions and being able to give an opinion contrary to our actual views.

We should consider ourselves lucky to have had such an opportunity. We should continue this opportunity for next year and for the future. We could think of new ideas to improve it even more. If you have any ideas feel free to share them.

by Sofia Brusa

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