Join | Donate | Volunteer:


Become part of a 5,000+ community which believes that speaking and listening skills are central to personal fulfilment and cultural understanding

Become a member


One-off or regular donations are vital to our work, helping us ensure that young people everywhere have the oracy skills they need to thrive

Support our work


We’re hugely grateful to those who volunteer their time in helping to organise and run ESU programmes and competitions. Find out how you could help


‘We rely on the generous support of our members, donors and volunteers to ensure we can reach those children who need our help most’

Home > News and views > New DfE funded teaching resources: Topical lesson plans to help you discuss controversial issues in the classroom

New DfE funded teaching resources: Topical lesson plans to help you discuss controversial issues in the classroom

The ESU, in partnership with ACT, is launching ‘The Deliberative Classroom’, a series of resources to support teachers to lead knowledge-based debates with their students.

We all know that tough topics make their way into the classroom. With Brexit negotiations ongoing, a Trump presidency across the water and on-going concerns around national security, there is no shortage of controversy. In this climate, young people need to be equipped with the knowledge, oracy skills and capacity for critical thinking they need in order to understand the world around them, and hold their own in political and social discussions.

The ESU, in partnership with the Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT) is launching a new set of resources to help teachers to support young people as they build these skills in a thoughtful and rigorous way. ‘The Deliberative Classroom’ is funded by the DfE, and helps teachers to respond to controversial issues with discussion, debate and dialogue.

Why use debate?

Here at the ESU we’ve seen the effect debate training can have on people’s ability to tackle difficult questions first hand. The structure and culture of debating provides a forum in which young people can express their views or explore new perspectives without fear of being shouted down (against the rules), interrupted (against the rules) or laughed at (against the rules). Our hope is that these resources can bring a flavour of that safe, yet challenging, environment to classrooms around the country, so that all students have an opportunity to get to grips with complex issues.

The Deliberative Classroom creates an environment where big ideas are there to be played with and challenged, rather than just accepted and memorised. Each set of resources is rich is the knowledge teachers need to guide students through what are often complex and thorny questions. Throughout, students use discussion and debate to explore their own opinions, and those of their peers. They use and develop their critical thinking skills as new information from the student resources, or their teacher, is integrated into their own world view.

“The student resources are practical and helpful in generating discussion and debate in the class. During the activities pupils engaged in higher level thinking about these challenging concepts.” (Gary Green, Assistant Head Teacher and Head of RE, Priory School, Southsea)

What’s included in the first resource pack?

The first set of Deliberative Classroom resources focuses on the theme of religious freedom. It contains a teacher briefing on the topic and three lesson plans (with associated student resources).  Throughout this set of resources, students explore the nature and limits of religious freedom through time, apply this to their own school setting through a consensus-seeking debate, and use a competitive debate to build and critique arguments about the relationship between freedom, religion and legislation.

I really enjoyed the session because it gave a really good insight into different religious and political views” – Pilot study student (KS3)

Find out more about the Association for Citizenship Teaching here:

Share Page