Case Study: Clapton Girls’ Academy

Clapton Girls’ Academy is an academy secondary school in Hackney, teaching girls between 11 and 18. It has over 1000 students.

The Noisy Classroom has supported the school with their debating for six years and in that time they have managed to embed debating throughout the whole of the school. Noisy Classroom’s Head of Programmes, Alice Coombes Huntley, works there two days a week as their Debate Educator.

A resident ‘Debate Educator’

What does a ‘Debate Educator’ do?

What a good question! A large part of my role is running 4 (of the 5!) after school debate clubs. I run Juniors Club (for Years 7), Seniors Club (Years 10-13), Primary Club (for local primary schools), and Global Intelligence. There is also a Debate Mate club for years 8 and 9. The Juniors and Seniors clubs are your usual argumentative and energetic debating clubs; debating everything from banning school uniforms to remove permanent members of the UN security council and preparing for external competitions. ‘Global Intelligence’ is a little bit different. This is a seminar-style club, aimed at learning about topics you might not cover within the school curriculum. We might learn about aid & development, 9/11, or controversies in modern art – the aim of this club is to start thought-provoking discussions about important issues.

When I’m not running the clubs, planning debates, or sorting out forms for school trips to competitions, I work with students and teachers to use debating in the classroom.

How does CGA use debating in the classroom?

In lots of different ways:

  • Every week I email all form tutors a ‘form time debate’ presentation, so that students can begin their day with a whole-class discussion. The form time debates become our 5 minute debates here, so why not have a go and try one with your form group?
  • Every year 7 student takes part in an 8 lesson scheme of work in English, focussed on debating and persuasive language, which culminates in several in-class debates.
  • I work with individual teachers on specific speaking-and-listening focussed lessons, be that deciding how best to divide up a piece of land in Geography, debating the causes of WW1 in History or discussing ethical issues in Heath and Social Care.
  • I organise PSCHE talks and discussions on a number of different topics, getting in speakers from outside. These classes are a great opportunity for students to hear from experts on topics, while also having a chance to air their own ideas about an issue.
  • I also help out with sixth form interview prep, making sure that our Year 13s are prepared and confident before university interviews.

Any time students are speaking, listening and responding, you are already using debating in the classroom – my job at Clapton is to make sure that students and teachers are doing this as often and as effectively possible.

How could other schools learn from Clapton Girls’ Academy? Do they need to all get debate educators too?

Clapton Girls Academy is a national leader in their commitment to embedding a culture of debating in their school. They want all their girls to be confident and articulate learners and recognise the role that debating skills can play in this.

All schools could follow parts of their programme. For example they could:

  • set up more debating clubs
  • sign up to a programme like PiXL Up For Debate and work through a debating-focussed scheme of work in English classes
  • set discussion topics for every class
  • run an internal public speaking competition
  • support faculties to build debating into schemes of work.

If you would be interested in having debate educator in your school (starting from one day a week for one term) then please contact

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