Case Study: Ardingly College, Haywards Heath

Ardingly College is a selective independent co-educational boarding and day school.

Ardingly College have taken part in Debating Matters since 2005, and have made it through to Regional and National Final level. We spoke to teacher Daniel Davies, Head of Business & Economics, about debating at Ardingly.

Debating at Ardingly College began under the motivation of just a few staff, including Daniel Davies, and unusually for an independent school Ardingly had no recent tradition of debate within the school, nor did it participate in external competitions when Daniel arrived.

Weekly lunchtime debate meetings are held for sixth formers to discuss contemporary issues such as: ‘The Iraq war was unjust’, ‘Is the pub more important than the church?’ and ‘Schools should be privately run’, as well as using the Debating Matters debate motions and Topic Guides.

As well as competing in Debating Matters, and the English Speaking Union competition, Daniel has also encouraged a number of other debate formats to engage the student and teaching body, such as its model United Nations programme, where students from across the college meet, each representing a UN country. This model included many students and staff coming together to understand their country’s perspective on issues such as troops in Afghanistan. The college also staged a smaller ‘Election Hustings’ type event , just before the 2010 General Election, and the debates focussed on the economy, health and education. Three students volunteered to broadly represent the three main parties standing for election, and gave a broad synopsis of their chosen party’s main ideas, and then had a chance to field questions and discuss their positions with the audience.

Ardingly, again under Daniel’s direction and with student and colleague support, has held four in-school debating competitions, which culminate in four simultaneous debates in venues across the college campus, enabling students from both junior and senior years to take part in competitive debate. All students in the college get involved, either formally as part of a team, or as participatory audience members.

Daniel has recently been working with six groups of students, from across the college, to help them develop skills for debating: how to break down motions into key arguments; how to use language to persuade in their arguments; and how to deal with questions and counter arguments effectively. This recent debate training ended with a final debate, which was filmed and played back to all involved. Students were then encouraged to give feedback to their peers to help all involved gain confidence in public speaking and develop their debate skills for the next years’ lunchtime debate programme.

What Ardingly do:

  • Run a weekly lunchtime debate club for sixth form students
  • Hold an in-school debate competition, open to all students, at the end of Lent term
  • Stage different events and programmes to engage all students in debate and discussion about contemporary issues

If you’d like to find out more about Ardingly’s debating experience and how they encourage debate in their school - or are interested in challenging them to a debate! - then .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)is happy for you to contact him directly.


Tell us about debating at your school - email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Have you been inspired to start a debate club at your school as a result of these examples? If so, please let us know!


Thursday 27 June:
Oxfordshire Championship at Oxford Union, in partnership with Magdalen College School and Oxford Festival of Arts

Friday 5 July:
North East Championship at Durham Sixth Form Centre


Find a list of all our previous championship events here.


Bernie Whelan, our DM coordinator, is raising money for Debating Matters. To stage one of our Championships for six to 12 teams costs £6,000. Find out more on Bernie’s Wonderful fundraising page.


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