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school debate competition final 2011: nuclear power
The Great Debate schools Competition final 2011:
'Nuclear power is the answer to the world’s energy problems'
Living in Changing World
Living in a Changing World video
Don't Shout at the Telly
Don't Shout at the Telly North East 2009

the great debate schools programme


Newcastle University Year of Sustainability school debate event
Monday 14th November 2011

Newcastle University
Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability

The Great Debate is pleased to report that our debating competition for schools hosted by Newcastle University was a great success in 2011. Four schools battled it out in front of expert judges for the title of The Great Debate Champion School 2011. The event was part of a series of activities taking place throughout 2011 to celebrate Newcastle University’s world-leading work on sustainability (see Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability).

Debate on 'Reducing pollution should be society’s top priority' Oct 2005
The Great Debate Schools Programme includes public debates, discussion-based workshops and courses, film workshops and debating workshops on a variety of themes from development, sustainability and environment to free speech and theories of human nature. Our Development, Sustainability and Environment series has been highly successful, running since 2003 with support of ESRC, Newcastle University, Northumbria University and Newcastle Local Agenda 21. The latest offshoot of this series, thegreatnortherndebate, has been recognised by the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies as a Regional Centre of Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development project.

Don't Shout at the Telly North East

Workshop at Conyers School, Yarm, 2008
We also organise debating workshops for schools, introducing students of all ages to different approaches and formats for debates.

There is so much to gain from debating, not least skills in doing independent research, public speaking, presentation, and of course formulating and sustaining an argument. The aim is to encourage young people to engage in serious discussion of contemporary issues. Thinking for themselves and thinking on their feet develops the confidence and skills required to make informed judgements about scientific and social issues, taking participants well beyond the subject matter of the debates.

Our programme focuses on key skills in four primary areas:

  • Communication - speaking, listening, reading and writing skills;
  • Information Communication Technology - finding, developing and presenting information;

  • Working with others - team work supports development of interpersonal skills through working cooperatively with others to achieve shared objectives;

  • Improving own learning and performance - through target-setting, planning, learning, communicating own needs and accepting constructive feedback;

  • We offer a range of options, from one-off workshops to ongoing support for developing debating societies in schools. Our expert team can develop on request topic materials tailored to your school or group, maximising the benefit gained in the workshops and debates themselves - and in our experience, teachers gain as much from the experience as the students!

    Comments on The Great Debate Schools Programme

    ‘Having new people in to school to extol the virtues of debating is great. It is a fresh perspective from that offered by the teachers ... It helps the participants to develop new ideas and ways of working and shows them that the school (and others) support their interests and desire to improve … It’s so good for them to have external input ...’

    Claire Sinclair, teacher at Durham Johnston School, November 2011

    ‘The workshop in school was invaluable – it was lovely for them to have that kind of intense feedback from someone other than me.’

    Amy Savage, teacher at St John's Catholic School and Sixth Form Centre, November 2011

    'I think the workshop was an excellent idea and our students came to it very enthused.'

    John Hill, teacher at Queen Elizabeth High School, Hexham, November 2011

    'The Great Debate school workshop was a great opportunity for our students to reflect on some important issues and also to develop useful skills in synthesising material and gathering arguments. The students were put under pressure to achieve this in a concentrated period of time. They came up trumps and were left with a real sense of achievement.'

    Val Hart, teacher at Stockton Sixth Form College, November 2011

    'The Great Debate is an excellent scheme and something I feel all schools should be involved with – it’s wonderful to see the students making their cases and having to think for themselves about their arguments and counterarguments. I think they get loads out of it and it was something that students who participated in the workshop at the SCENE Conference really enjoyed and talked about for days after.'

    Elizabeth Lunn, former co-ordinator, Sustainable Communities and Environments North East (SCENE), February 2011

    ‘It was fantastic to see how the students developed their argument and how they performed under pressure, by the different questioning fired at them. It was a good way to involve a number of students and they gained not only knowledge about the subject area but also brilliant communication skills.’

    Deborah Johnson, Lecturer at Newcastle College commenting on The Great Debate workshop held as part of the SCENE launch, Nov 2010

    Preparing for debate at SCENE launch, November 2010. 
Photograph by Kasey Williamson, student at Newcastle College Preparing for debate at SCENE launch, November 2010. 
Photograph by Kasey Williamson, student at Newcastle College
    Preparing for debate at SCENE launch, November 2010.
    Photographs by Kasey Williamson, student at Newcastle College

    Our current top five propositions are:

  • "Multiculturalism is incompatible with equality"
  • "Sustainability is bad for the developing world"
  • "It is wrong to experiment on animals"
  • "Space exploration is a waste of money"
  • "Celebrities should have greater protection from the media"
  • For more information contact Caspar Hewett.

    Debating Matters Competition Debating Matters Competition

    As part of The Great Debate schools programme we hope to involve more students in debate through our continued support of the Institute of Ideas' and Pfizer's Debating Matters Competition. Following its highly successful pilot year, the competition launched in the North East in 2005 and has continued to grow, attracting more and more schools in the region. Debating Matters demands more than rhetoric or rant from the sixth form students who take part. Young people are encouraged to research issues thoroughly and become more confident and sophisticated in articulating their views by standing up to a probing intellectual examination. This is all part of the competition's philosophy of privileging reasoned participation over rhetorical posturing. Debate topics engage with contentious contemporary issues and uniquely involve a critical examination of debater's arguments by celebrity judges drawn from academia, the media and business.

    Click here for further details about the competition

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    © C J M Hewett, 2011