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Home > Competitions > Schools’ Mace

‘My experience in the Mace gave me the confidence to challenge people and fight for what I believe is right’

Schools’ Mace

Key Facts

What: Oldest and largest debating competition for schools
Age: Years 7-13
Price: £45 per team (one team per school); subsidies and fee waivers available for schools with high FSMs and EAL
When: Heats begin in November, with the National Final in late March
How: Sign up here! Registration deadline is Friday, 7 October 2022

In brief

The English-Speaking Union’s Schools’ Mace, the oldest and largest debating competition for schools in England, hones your students’ debate skills in a fun, competitive environment.

Working in teams, students enhance their speech-writing, public speaking and critical thinking, helping them to excel both in and out of school and giving them a sense of pride in themselves and their achievements.

The winners’ silver maces (each featuring an owl) are on display in Dartmouth House

Once registered, we will be in touch with details of your host school, the school you will be competing against, the motion and your assigned position (proposition or opposition).

The Schools’ Mace competition led to my whole career. If you do well in a competition, you get a sense of where you are and what you can achieve. It makes you realise that anything is possible

Krishnan Guru-Murthy

Presenter, Channel 4 News

Why do it

  • Encourages confidence, critical thinking and social mobility, broadening students’ horizons and opportunities
  • Prestigious nationwide (England and Wales) competition, highly motivating for students and the school as a whole
  • Challenges students to engage with wide-ranging cross-curricular topics, while helping to meet National Curriculum speaking and listening targets
  • Experienced ESU-trained judges give constructive feedback to all participants at all levels of the competition
  • Support and resources provided throughout
  • Builds links and camaraderie with other schools both locally and nationally, widening your and your students’ network of contacts
Tommy and peer holding the School's Mace stick
Schools' Mace winners, 2012
Over 300 schools per year participate in the ESU School’s Mace, making this the largest schools’ debating competition in the country

‘Unlike the administrators of university competitions, the ESU has a national view of what’s going on. It has extensive resources for debaters, judges and teachers all available on its website and was quickly able to tell us where Mace heats were happening in our region. More importantly, it also advised us about how we might set up a heat in our immediate area.

Another really helpful aspect of the ESU programmes is that, because it is a national organisation (international, in fact), it is possible for teachers to attend regional heats and finals as a scoping exercise before taking the plunge and registering your school.’

Laura Pearson, teacher, St Peter’s, York

This video gives a quick summary of the format used in an ESU Schools’ Mace Debate.

Watch how Sehba from Swakeleys School for Girls deals with a Point of Information in this short extract from a Schools’ Mace competition.

In this round 2 debate from the ESU Schools’ Mace 2020, participants debate the motion ‘This house would make vaccinations compulsory’.

Find out more

Sign-ups for the Schools’ Mace 2022-23 are now open! Registration deadline is Friday, 7 October 2022.

Sign up for our schools’ newsletter to keep up-to-date and to receive free resources.

First round heats run in November, second round heats in January, Regional Finals in late February and early March, and the National Final in late March. Submit your teams ASAP to avoid disappointment!


If you have any questions or queries about Schools’ Mace please email or call 020 7529 1565.

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