Case Study: King Edward VI School

King Edward VI School (KES) is a Church of England Secondary school, with a sixth form, in Suffolk. They have over 1500 pupils, including 350+ in the sixth form.

Our Head of Programmes, Alice, visited the school in early February 2018. 

Friday Afternoon Debating Club

A debating club…on a Friday afternoon? 

Yes. The Friday afternoon debating club is an established part of life at KES. The club was started by Geoff Barton when he was headteacher, and is now ably carried on by Victoria Waddoups, Mark Hird and Matt Elliott.

Every Friday afternoon, a large group of students gather in the school library at 4pm. Those who want to debate are organised into teams, and others can watch, chair, time-keep and judge. When I was there, there were roughly 30 students who stayed behind until 5pm, and there were 3 full rooms of British Parliamentary debates going on all at once.

Students from all year groups attend the club. There are some very experienced sixth formers, who have taken part in lots of competitions, and indeed star in some of Noisy Classroom’s videos. There are also novice debaters in the lower school who are still learning the basics of debating. The debating rooms are roughly grouped in terms of ability, but there are also opportunities for great modelling and peer learning, as the newer students can also watch the more experienced debate.

How do they manage to get students to stay after school on a Friday?!

By creating a real sense of club community and identity. This is an established part of life at the school and students come to socialise, argue, and take part in some heated debates before going home for the weekend. The club relies on a combination of dedicated staff and possibly even more dedicated students. Once a critical mass start attending, then others come along, ‘just to see’ and soon enough they start coming along every week.

Plus, they serve tea and biscuits at the beginning of the club. Reader, I must confess, I ate the last jammy dodger.

Is debating an important part of life at KES? 

Absolutely. As well as the club, the school takes part in numerous different competitions, including the Up For Debate programme that the Noisy Classoom run with PiXL. Additionally, teachers use debating and other oracy strategies to promote discursive, analytical and noisy classroom environments.

What Other Schools Can Learn from King Edward VI: 

All schools could imitate King Edward VI.  For example they could:

  • Set up their own debating club (Friday afternoon time slot optional)
  • Enter their students into different debating competitions. We ran a series of blog posts that talk through all you need to know about entering competitions (hyperlink)
  • Sign up to a programme like PiXL Up For Debate and work through a debating-focussed scheme of work in English classes
  • Use our videos to teach your students about the debating format – we have videos of the 3 v 3, British Parliamentary and World Schools’ Format
  • Organise and run internal debating competitions – possibly having senior students judge and organise the competition

If you would be interested in taking part in the Up For Debate programme next year, or want to discuss ways your school can embed debating into lessons, please contact


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