Students at Saint Paul’s are taking part in the Debate Mate programme designed to develop confidence, improve speaking and listening attainment and enhance leadership and teamwork skills.
The school has over 40 students signed up to participate in this year's Debate Mate and these students will take part in the regional (and hopefully national, if they make it through the first rounds) competitions during the year.
The charity, Debate Mate, employs university students to run extra-curricular debate workshops in schools developing a range of skills and teaching pupils how to control and promote discussion and ideas.
The Debate Mate launch event has just taken place at Crawford House at the University of Manchester, there were 290 students in attendance from 15 schools. Schoolchildren from across Greater Manchester battled it out, in front of an engaged and enthusiastic audience, in a debate over whether their city should be made the capital of the UK.
The controversial topic created a buzz at the event where Saint Paul’s students, Matthew Kirkwood in Year 10, and Hannah Babin-Conteh in Year 8 were selected to take part in the floor debate for the opposition. Many of other Saint Paul’s students also contributed during the audience participation section with thoughtful questions to the proposition and opposition.
The debate’s verdict was that Manchester should not be the capital of the UK - with the opposition only just winning.
During the coming months, the students will be trained by Debate Mate mentors in how to form informed ideas and opinions on a range of issues, how to carry out research and source appropriate evidence for their arguments, how to articulate their views clearly and debate topics successfully and with persuasion. These skills will directly improve and inform their academic progress by allowing pupils the opportunity to develop their critical thinking skills and forms of self-expression, both orally and in writing. It will also enable them to build self-confidence and develop social skills, learning how to turn-take and engage in meaningful dialogue with others.
Ms Laura Fannon, English Teacher at Saint Paul’s, said: “We were delighted that out of the 290 students at the event, two of our students were selected and helped to win the debate for the opposition!
“Most young people are much better public speakers than they think are; however, many students are very nervous about speaking in public, especially in front of their peers. This programme is designed to address those fears and to raise the students’ confidence. We want them to find their own voice and have an opinion whilst thinking creatively and learning to view alternatives from a range of angles. We also aim to raise students’ aspirations and expectations by exposing them to the successful university students who are very positive role models.”
Ms Fannon added: “The students were extremely enthusiastic and enjoy addressing issues that affect them, their communities and the wider world. I am sure that they will particularly benefit from developing their key listening, thinking, exploring and articulation skills.”
“Debate Mate provides an introduction to public speaking, techniques for constructing arguments and an overview of the British Parliamentary style of debating,” explained Mr Tony Billings, Executive Headteacher at Saint Paul’s. “The ability to speak confidently in public is an invaluable skill that we think all young people would benefit from. The workshops were fun and engaging, covering a variety of issues including current affairs and topical news stories. The sessions helped our pupils gain confidence and it was wonderful to see several timid youngsters develop into articulate and active participants.”