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Home > Competitions > Schools’ Mace

'I've seen students' written work improve, just because of the structure they have to use in debating.'

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Schools’ Mace

Key Facts

What: Oldest and largest debating competition for schools

Age: Ages 11 – 18 (Years 7-13)

Price: £55 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 grand final in late March

Watch: Our introductory webinar to find out more

How: Register your school today

In brief

The Schools’ Mace, founded in 1957, is the oldest and largest debating competition for schools in England and Wales. Involving around 300 schools each year, it offers students from Key Stages 3 to 5 the opportunity to discuss and debate a wide array of controversial subjects and current affairs. Over several heats of topical, passionate dialogue, students develop their knowledge of the world, as well as their reasoning and presentation skills, in a fun, enriching and competitive environment.

Educational institutions of all kinds are welcome to enter the competition, and each school is permitted to field one team of up to five students.

Register your school today

Or register for our introductory webinar to find out more.

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

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Keep in touch

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

  • A 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 curriculum speaking and listening targets
  • Encourages confidence, critical thinking and social mobility, broadening students’ horizons and opportunities
  • 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
Schools’ Mace winners 2022
Over 300 schools per year participate in the ESU School’s Mace, making this the largest schools’ debating competition in the country

‘Debating is such a great skill for young people to learn. It teaches you to think critically, to research and, most importantly, it teaches you not to be taken in by the easy or the obvious argument. When we’re faced with fake news, we need citizens of the world who are intelligent, who are critical, who are questioning the information they are presented with.’

Jason Vit from The National Literacy Trust and guest judge at Mace Grand Final 2023

Watch Manchester Grammar School and Tonbridge Grammar School debate the motion ‘This House Believes that sports governing bodies should require clubs to be majority owned by their fans’ in the grand final of the 2022 Schools’ Mace.

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.

Find out more

Register your school today.

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’re looking for additional help, the ESU provides training in debating and public speaking to both primary and secondary school students through our Discover Your Voice workshops. We also run an annual summer school, Debate Academy, for students aged 14 to 18, which helps to improve their debating skills with expert, world-class teaching from ESU mentors. 


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

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