Natasha GoodfellowConsultant Editor

The Big Debate with Frank Cottrell Boyce

Tuesday 13 Nov 2018

Author and writer for the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, Frank Cottrell Boyce joined 150 Doncaster school children yesterday to promote the importance of speaking and listening.

Acclaimed children’s author Frank Cottrell Boyce yesterday chaired a Big Debate for local schoolchildren at the National College for High Speed Rail, Doncaster. Organised by The ESU and popular children’s current affairs magazine The Week Junior, the event saw around 150 students from seven local primary schools invited for a day of fun, interactive workshops to help them build their oracy (speaking and listening) skills.

Frank Cottrell Boyce spoke movingly about the importance of listening, before students from Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield, all of whom took part in the English-Speaking Union’s Discover Debating programme in the last school year, started off the day with a show debate on the theme of ‘This house believes that more children’s stories should have unhappy endings’. An initial show of hands revealed that around only a fifth of the audience agreed with the motion before the debate. After the exchange, in which the proposition (Alfie Hobson, Cameron Rodriguez and Blue Mitchell) argued that unhappy endings prepared children for real life, while the opposition (Medhi Haider, Elloise Beattie and Maddison Woollen) spoke eloquently for 'hope not fear, optimism not pessimism,' another audience vote showed that although the motion was not carried, there had been a huge swing in audience opinions.

'I'm so pleased to see so many of you have changed your minds, which shows how well you've all listened,' said Duncan Partridge, Director of Education, The English-Speaking Union underlining that it is a good thing to change one's mind when presented with new information.

The students were then split up into different workshop groups and given the chance to work on their debating skills, guided by ESU mentors. Workshops used motions from The Week Junior's Big Debate page (on which the ESU advises) and students discussed subjects from whaling to the household item most likely to help them in a zombie apocalypse. The National College of High Speed Rail also facilitated a workshop on bridge building, for which teamwork and communication was an important part.

'Debating is a skill which develops confidence, critical thinking and has a positive impact on wider academic abilities, all of which open doors and help children to reach their full potential,' said Duncan Partridge. 'We are delighted to have been able to hold this event in Doncaster, an Opportunity Area, where the fostering of social mobility is a priority.’

The attending Doncaster schools were: Arbourthorne Community Primary School, Highfields Primary Academy, Hatfield Crookesbroom Primary Academy, Castle Hills Primary School, St Francis Xavier Catholic Primary School, Park Primary School and Edenthorpe Hall Primary Academy.

Find out more about Discover Debating our two- or three-term debating programme for primary schools.