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.
WHY ENTER A DEBATING COMPETITION
Lots of schools have thriving debating societies. These can be fantastic arenas for argument and discussion, and help students to develop a wide range of skills.
However, for many schools, entering external competitions can seem like it isn’t worth the time, effort, or cost.
Ever tighter budgets, ever longer risk assessment forms, and students who might decide next week that they actually love martial arts, not debating club, can mean that entering competitions never becomes a priority.
At the Noisy Classroom we understand all of these problems, and think that having a debating club that doesn’t compete is still a fantastic thing to offer your students. However, we do think debating competitions offer unique opportunities. So, in true debater fashion, here are our 5 main points as to why your school should enter a debating competition.
Debating Competitions Are Fun
If your students are coming to your debating society regularly, chances are that they like debating quite a lot. Debating competitions give students an opportunity to debate two, three, or even four times in one day. They will debate against people they don’t know, and won’t know their strengths and weaknesses – it is more of a challenge than debating against peers from school who they have already debated against many times.
Debating competitions give students an opportunity to meet other students from across the country. They can meet other like-minded (or not – debaters are argumentative after all!) students and learn from each other. You never know, lifelong friendships might begin after a particularly heated debate on climate change.
Debating competitions are often run by universities. Pupils get to go into a university and meet university students, and be judged by experts on politics and literature. It is an exciting opportunity to discuss interesting and difficult ideas.
Debating Competitions Improve Students’ Debating
As fantastic as your school debating society may be, after a while, students will get into bad habits. They’ll be used to the people they debate against, and the people who judge them, and debates may feel predictable or easy.
Competitions are the opposite of that. Students are challenged to debate against, and in front of, strangers. They’re forced to really explain their ideas, and to really listen to the teams they debate against. Moreover, the judges are often expert debaters and will give detailed and useful feedback.
At your debating society there is probably only time for one debate a week. It is likely then, that students only debate a few times a month (assuming you have 8+ members of your society). At a competition, they will debate several times a day and receive feedback after each debate. This kind of intensive experience, and all the feedback, can help students to improve a huge amount over a very short time.
Debating Competitions Provide Opportunities for Teachers Too
Some debating competitions will offer CPD opportunities for teachers, to help you become better coaches and judges, or to use debating in your lessons.
Even if they don’t, you’ll be able to watch multiple debates and hear from different judges – your knowledge of debating, and competitive debating, will increase vastly, especially at your first few competitions. (If this doesn’t appeal, its also possible to sit at the back and do your marking!).
There are Debating Competitions For Every Ability and Interest
There are lots of different competitions you can enter. Some focus on certain subjects. Others are aimed at different age groups. There are different formats, and different sets of judging criteria. Whether you’re got a budding scientist, a dramatic linguist, or an argumentative all-rounder in Year 8, there is a debating competition to suit them.
Debating Competitions Don’t Have To Cost A Fortune
Lots of competitions offer subsidies, bursaries and fee waivers to state schools and/or schools that are new to debating. When you register, it is always worth asking about ways to reduce the entrance fee as very often competitions will be able to accommodate requests.
Hopefully our reasons have persuaded you, and perhaps we’ll be seeing you at one of the competitions we help to organise very soon.