Case Study: Leicester Grammar School, Great Glen, Leicestershire
Leicester Grammar School is an independent secondary school with 700 students.
Leicester Grammar first took part in Debating Matters in 2008/09, winning through to the Central Regional Final in 2010. We asked Trevor Allen, Head of Sixth Form, to tell us a bit about the school’s debating experience.
Trevor has run Leicester Grammar’s debating teams for the past 20 years. The school has two competitions - Senior and Junior. The Senior competition runs from October to April, with a final debate on the last day of the spring term which all senior students attend, whilst the Junior competition runs from May to July - again with a final on the last day of the academic year which all junior students attend.
Both competitions are run (as in Debating Matters) on a knock out basis, with senior students competing as random pairs and juniors as form representatives. Trevor says he secures around 30 competitors each school year at senior level. The senior and junior teams debate at least once a week – barring other commitments such as exams.
Attendance at the weekly debate events can be anything from 10 to 50 people, with a lot of regular attendees each week, and the school’s Debating Matters team is drawn from this senior competition, with Trevor choosing the four best students from the senior debate club. Although Trevor very much directs the make-up of the team, and discusses the Debating matters debate motions with them, he stresses that he acts as a sounding board for the students rather than a coach and that ‘to be successful the students have to do the research and thinking for themselves to help improve their understanding of the issues at hand’.
The weekly debates Trevor arranges follow a different format to that of Debating Matters. They are simplified in that two speakers speak for and two speak against a motion, and the audience (not a panel of judges) vote on which team has won. Trevor chairs a lot of the weekly debates himself, although he does encourage senior students to do so some of the time – both to alleviate the demands made on Trevor but also because it is good experience for them.
Interestingly, Leicester Grammar also involves teaching staff in debates! Trevor and a colleague will challenge the winners of the Senior Competition to a debate, or perhaps hold a parliamentary style debate between staff whereby staff from different subject areas will debate on an educational issue – art v science, for example. Trevor points out that the involvement of staff in this way helps increase support for debating throughout the school, and adds to a creative debate culture.
What Leicester Grammar do:
- Run weekly senior and junior debate clubs
- Encourage staff to debate with senior students and other teachers to help foster a healthy debate culture within the school
- Expect the senior students to be able to motivate themselves to do the research and thinking required to succeed in debating competitions