Case Study: Wensleydale School and Sixth Form

Wensleydale School and Sixth Form is a comprehensive secondary school and sixth form in Wensleydale, Yorkshire, teaching students between ages 11 and 18. 

Noisy Classroom associate, Charlie Barnett, is Assistant Headteacher at Wensleydale. He says:

Debate is changing our school. As a member of PiXL we were introduced to the Up For Debate competition, and 6 students in year 9 started something very special. There now exists a Debate Club that runs once a week and is open to all year groups (7-13). We have also introduced teacher ‘debate champions’ in every faculty, who look for opportunities to include debate in lessons.

Debate in the Curriculum and Faculty Champions

What are faculty champions?

We have 5 Faculties across the school and each has a ‘debate champion’ who uses the Noisy Classroom Handbook to establish opportunities in their curriculum to introduce debate. In the second half of the year our whole staff CPD sessions, TeachEat sessions and Faculty meetings will include time for sharing practice that uses debate. This will allow us as a school to support teachers in all subject areas to collaboratively build stretch and challenge through oracy. Once introduced generally in classrooms, there will be a process of regular evaluation of the success and weakness, and how students can be supported in making the most progress in their learning using this very powerful tool.

How does Wensleydale use debate in the curriculum? 

In September Debate was introduced as a key teaching tool as part of the staff CPD programme to stretch and challenge all students in their learning. From English to History to Science teachers are seeking opportunities to debate topics on the curriculum. Though formal debate is used to allow students to structure and reflect on understanding, and then express that understanding logically. Full Debate can be accessed by all students and allows them to express their understanding logically, and through the use of competition and a sense of ‘occasion’ build towards mastery of their learning. Quick Debates are also being encouraged to allow access by all students and allows them to structure and reflect on their own understanding. For instance, ‘I couldn’t disagree more’ allows evaluation of knowledge to be well modelled. One to one debates allow students to test their understanding and reflect in a supportive environment. ‘Where do you stand?’ allows for clear application of knowledge. The Quick Debates provide multiple access points to the skill/knowledge for ALL students to structure and reflect on their own understanding.

As a school we are developing our use of debate inside and outside of the classroom, to help our students to master the knowledge available to them…

Tell us about your debate club

We have members from all year groups who decide each week on the next week’s topic. In the last four weeks we have debated: fox hunting, internet access, zoos and the sugar tax. We have speakers from year 13 working with those in year 7. In each team a lead debater helps to coach those less experienced. The students are now taking a lead in all aspects of the club, including wanting to invite other local Schools and Sixth Form Colleges to debate matches and targeting setting up a league.

What Other Schools Can Learn from Wensleydale School and Sixth Form

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
  • support faculties to build debating and oracy into schemes of work. We have some oracy lesson plans and advice on using debating in the classroom.
  • host and organise debatinc ompetitions that involve local schools

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 the curriculum, please contact

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