‘I first heard about Discover Debating from a friend,’ says Liezel Jacobs, a teacher at Broadwater Primary School in Tooting, south London. ‘A lot of our pupils are EAL (English as an additional language) pupils, and debating helps to give their language skills an extra boost – it gets them talking and improves their confidence,’ she says. ‘I’ve really seen the change in the children I’ve worked with.’
Starting in the autumn term 2017, Liezel and a group of 25 self-selected children from Years 5 and 6 met once a week, supported by one of our oracy trainers. ‘Our mentor was wonderful – knowing that I could call or email her to ask questions and get new ideas was invaluable,’ says Liezel. ‘Debating is a new thing for me so having her there to back me up has really helped. Just because I’m a teacher it doesn’t mean I can teach debating, but the more you do it, the better you become.’
Liezel and her colleagues have seen the benefits of oracy training filter through to their other classes too. ‘The oracy skills and techniques we’ve learnt can be applied in maths, in persuasive writing and are useful all round,’ she says. ‘Children who have benefited from oracy training have a better structure to express themselves and explain their answers.’
There have been other benefits, too. Student Makeda has found that debating has helped with her stammer. ‘I can find the words I want to say more easily,’ she says; while Rikki tells us ‘It’s built my confidence and helped me to stand up more to people who I don’t agree with.’
As is the intention behind Discover Debating, Broadwater now plans to incorporate debating more widely into the curriculum. With the ESU mentor’s help the school has started debate training for many of its staff and will be rolling this out to its teaching assistants in the new year.
But for Broadwater, as for most of our Discover Debating schools, the programme isn’t just about teaching techniques and skillsets. ‘Teaching our children that they don’t all have to feel or think the same, that someone can have a different opinion and you can agree to disagree – that’s so important,’ says Liezel.
Debating teaches me how to say things better. It’s been stopping my stammer because I can find the words I want to say more easily.
I’ve learnt how to disagree without doing it too loudly or rudely.
It’s built my confidence and helped me to stand up more to people who I don’t agree with.
97% of Discover Debating teachers say that teaching oracy has improved their students’ confidence
92% of Discover Debating teachers say they now understand how oracy activities relate to other subjects taught in their school
80% of Discover Debating pupils say they have learnt new ways to work together in a team