Strength in numbers: How to make the most of the Schools’ Mace by getting your whole debate club involved
This month, schools the length and breadth of England are gearing up to compete in the Schools’ Mace 2017-18, the ESU’s national debating competition. For the two debaters that make up each team, being prepared to put yourself up for such a challenge is no mean feat: once the motions have been released, the countdown – and the pressure – is on! The preparation process, from initial research to standing up and delivering a speech on the night, can be a daunting task to undertake for any student. Where do you start? How long will each stage of preparation take? And how challenging will it be to find a balance between taking part in the Schools’ Mace, and revising for impending mock exams?
Fortunately, the ESU Oracy Team has a brilliant solution to alleviating the pressure on Schools’ Mace participants: strength in numbers.
You wouldn’t expect a couple of Hollywood actors to research, write, rehearse, direct, film, edit and release a feature-length blockbuster all by themselves. The same can be said for a Schools’ Mace team. Although only two students actively compete in the debate, that’s only part of the experience. There is so much that can be done behind the scenes with the aid and support of an entire Debate Club, and teams that tap into this potential will certainly get the most out of the Schools’ Mace.
- Delegate – once the motion and position of your school is released, give members of your debate club a different area or argument to research. Allow them to briefly present this research so that your whole club can help to form the team’s approach, whether it’s a mechanism, or predicting possible mechanisms that the Proposition will deliver.
- Prioritise – work together to decide which of the arguments should be delivered and in which order. This is where the Schools’ Mace scoring criteria areas of organisation and prioritisation come in, as not all arguments will be as strong as each other.
- Practise – once the speeches are written, it’s time for a practise run. Think of this as a rehearsal. Designate two members of the debate club to be opponents, and see how your team’s arguments, points of information and rebuttal stack up against an opposing team. The rest of the debate club should act as the floor to ask challenging questions, as well as give the speakers constructive feedback at the end! Practising a debate is a great way of finding out where your stumbling blocks are, as you can pause and restart speeches if you wish, even stopping to think about certain POIs before you answer them. Responding to practise POIs means your team will be ready if they come up in the actual debate, and it will help to make them less nervous on the day. Even practicing once will be beneficial, but the more times you practice, the more confident your team will become.
- Assemble – take as many members of your debate club as possible to the Round One heat. They won’t be able to ask floor questions in your debate, but they will act as moral support for your team. They can also listen in to the ESU mentor’s feedback afterwards (alongside the speakers) to help them reflect and build on their performance for future debates. And if your school gets through to Round Two, you’ll get to celebrate your achievement with your club then and there!
Getting your whole debate club involved in the Schools’ Mace reduces pressure on your team, maximises the potential of the preparation time available and is a great way to get even more of your students involved. So why not give it a go!
For further suggestions on how to prepare and practice, have a read of the ESU Schools Mace Handbook.
And good luck in Round One!