Case Study: Barton Court Grammar School, Canterbury


Barton Court Grammar School in Canterbury staged its first ‘Day of Debating’ for all 120 of its students in year 12. We asked the school’s Director of Key Stage Four and the teacher in charge of debating, Nick Hayes, to tell us all about it!

“Taking the motions from the Debating Matters website, and using the Topic Guides for the materials, we adopted a slim-downed version of the Debating Matters format. The whole day was spent either preparing for debates or else in debating competition.

Students were first introduced to the Debating Matters format, shown the website and discussed the topic guides. They spent the morning in research and auditioning with every single student involved in debating or judging a number of motions. The top performers started to emerge and to gather material for the final show down. Ultimately each form had to come up with a champion team to proceed to face their rival form groups. These pairs went forward and competed for the title of best in the year.

The event culminated in the main hall with all students gathered to hear semi-finals and then the final. Finally, to rapturous applause, there was the award of a trophy to the top team! Each debate was limited to 15 minutes with 2 minutes per speaker and then 7 minutes of questions from student judges and open debate across the pairs, if time allowed.

The standard was very high with a clear need for succinct and pithy points in this slim-downed version. Students loved the chance to be judges and to grill their peers while the competition across the forms lead to some lively exchanges on the floor and between staff!  It was pleasing to note that the winning pair was completely new to debating but have since signed up to the Debating Society and possibly compete in Regional Finals!

Plans are already in place to run a Day of Debating for both year 13 and year 10. The day was a real success and that is the only thing not up for debate.”

Nick Hayes

We think this is a fantastic initiative on the part of Nick Hayes and Barton Court Grammar School, and hope it encourages other schools to consider trying something similar, inspired by Barton Court’s success. If you’d like to find out more about Barton Court’s day of debate, and how they encourage debate in their school more broadly, then Nick Hayes is happy for you to contact him directly.


Tell us about debating at your school - email Justine Brian. 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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