Hosting and Organising Your Own Debating Competition


Welcome to Competitions Week here at Noisy Classroom, where we’re dedicating  a whole week’s worth of blog posts to debating competitions. Hopefully you’ll read our posts and be inspired to enter your students into some competitions…or even host your own. 


After you have attended several competitions, or if attending competitions isn’t a feasible option for your school, you might be considering organising and hosting your own competition. This guide aims to help you do just that.

One option, before running your own competition, might be to volunteer to host a local regional round of another competition. You’ll need to provide rooms, but the competition organisers should provide judges, recruit other teams, run the actual competition, and will be on hand to help answer any questions you have. Hosting a regional round can be a great way to introduce more students to debating, meet like-minded teachers, and show off your school.

Hosting your own competition – Things to consider:

  • Who will the competition be for? Your students? Your students and those from other schools? Local feeder primary schools?
  • Who will judge the competition? Colleagues? Staff from accompanying schools? Older students/sixth formers? Individuals from the local community?
  • What will be the format and how will the debates be judged?
  • When will it take place? After school? On a weekend?
  • Where in the school will it take place? Would the hall work for announcements? What about individual debate rooms? Are there toilets for male and female students, and accompanying staff, nearby? What is the fire escape route?
  • Will there be a prize?
    Do you need money for the competition? Could a local company or university help to sponsor? Will you be asking attending schools to contribute any money for refreshments etc?
  • How long will the competition last? Work out how long one debate in your format takes (including judging and feedback), then add 15 minutes (minimum) for delays etc. How many debates do you want to have/how many can you have in the given timeframe?
  • How many teams will compete? (This will depend on how many rooms you can use and how many judges you have)


  • Once you’ve got a date, schedule and location, you now need to advertise. If you are running the competition internally, that will probably be fairly simple.
  • If you are inviting local schools, aim to give them at least 6 weeks notice, to organise trip letters/risk assessment etc.
  • Do they need to bring allow students to chair and timekeep?
  • Once you’ve got teams signed up, work out how you will organise the debates (who will debate who). For larger competitions you will need  use ‘tab’ software to organise the debates and order the best teams, but this does require you taking the time to familiarize yourself with this computer programme. For smaller competitions it is probably easiest to draw the debate by hand/pen and pencil.  You could have a ‘round robin’ where teams debate every other team, or divide them into groups, depending on numbers. Think through any issues – with your system, is there a risk THREE teams will end up on TWO wins, when only TWO can go through to the final?
  • Make sure there is at least one person whose only role will be running the competition on the day – if you’re judging, who will take charge if a problem arises in another room?
  • Print off schedules and maps for attendees
  • Set up a powerpoint if you will be using this for announcements.

On the day:

  • Aim to be preparing at least an hour before the competition officially starts. Set up rooms, check through printing, manage last minute drop outs etc. Assign someone to man the ‘registration desk’, someone else to direct people to the announcement room, show them to the loos etc.
  • Set up a powerpoint if you are using it for announcements.
  • Once the teams have all arrived, you may need to make last minute changes to the draw.
  • Have a quick briefing, where you can talk through the format, schedule, and judging criteria in front of all the teams.
  • Tell teams where they are debating, what position they are, and announce the motion.
  • Run the debates and *touch wood* the competition should go smoothly!

Numbers and Schedules:


  • Number of debaters: 24
  • Number of teams: 8
  • Number of rooms needed: 4
  • Number of judges: 4-12, all sixth formers who have been trained and briefed beforehand.
    Tabbing: By hand
  • Speech length: 2 minutes
  • Time needed per debate (inc preparation time,judging and feedback, plus extra time) –  1 hour


  • 3.30 – Teams arrive in school hall and are registered
  • 3.45 – First debate is announced
  • 4.45 – Second debate is announced
  • 5.45  – Refreshment break
  • 6.00 – Grand final. Top two teams debate in front of everyone in school hall.
  • 6.45 – Winners announced, certificates given to the top 5 speakers (from first two debates, not just grand final)
  • 7pm – Everyone offsite


  • Number of debaters: 64
  • Number of teams: 32
  • Number of rooms needed: 8
  • Number of judges needed: minimum 8
  • Tabbing: Using Tabbie software
  • Speech length: 5 minutes
  • Time needed per debate (inc preparation time, judging and feedback, plus extra time) – 1.5 hours minimum


  • 9am – Teams arrive at school, registered and sent to school hall
  • 9.30am – Announcements
  • 9.45am – First debate is announced
  • 11.30 am – Second debate is announced
  • 1pm – 1.45pm – Lunch
  • 2pm – Third debate is announced
  • 3.30- 4pm – Break
  • 4pm – Final is announced. Everyone watches the final in the hall.
  • 5pm – Winners and top 10 speakers announced
  • 5.30 – Everyone offsite



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