The  very best schools foster confidence through public speaking: the skills of following an argument, articulating ideas clearly, and thinking under pressure are essential life skills.

Speaking and listening was ‘dropped’ in the UK curriculum because, according to an AQA trainer, the grades scored by students were, on average, a grade higher. The moderators, people who come into school to judge whether teacher judgement matches their judgement, found that departments were often smart in presenting conservative judgements, as the consequences of judging too favourably/leniently/highly.

The ideal, then, was that teachers would teach how, and offer opportunities to, speak publicly.

Debating is the method to offer the stakes and public form needed to raise the expectations of speaking.

1) Debating in lessons.

Firstly, debating is a fundamental pedagogy to which all students deserve access. All you need is a group of three – proposition, opposition, and the judge. I will write more about this later, but the structure intends to require all parties to participate during all aspects. Over three lessons is an ideal sequence, with prompts, debates, and a public debate developing understanding of the topic in hand.

2) Taking students to debate competitions.

Debating competitively is a wonderful opportunity that should be offered to all students. It is a demanding endeavour, often requiring a 6am wake up (to take students in good time to a usual 8am start) and a late (6pm) finish. Students need to be engaged throughout the day, and judging needs to evaluate arguments used. Those leading such teams send a clear message with their commitment.

3) Managing debate clubs.

A debate club needs to enthuse students; it needs to empower students in leadership roles; it needs students to speak as much as possible. It needs a debate culture in other schools, and it needs buy-in from a range of staff (and to share the load of responsibility!) .

Three books that are great (and electronically available) are:

A useful, detailed overview:

A great manual detailing pros and cons of the fundamental debate topics (also available freely on website like

Again, a useful book for detailing World Style: