Each year the ESU selects national teams for England and Wales who represent their nations at the World Schools Debating Championships. This year we have made a few important changes to the selection process.
Team England and Team Wales demonstrate the very best of school debating in their nations and the ESU has been immensely proud to have supported the World Schools Debating Championships in various ways since 1997.
The national debate teams receive guidance and coaching from ESU appointed coaches and receive support from the wider debating community consisting of current and alumni debaters in England and Wales. Given that the teams represent their nations on the world stage, it is important that the teams benefit from the diversity in the nations they represent. Sending teams that reflect the make-up of their nations is important because it is diversity that is key to each teams’ unique success.
The chances of debaters getting onto their national debate teams are higher when they have benefitted from coaching and an ability to attend many tournaments in order to hone their skills. In both England and Wales, independent schools are comparatively more able and willing to invest time and resources into creating a culture of debating in their school. Teachers are able to facilitate attendance at university-run competitions and can pay for ongoing coaching. The imbalance in access to such opportunities has been reflected in the make-up of Team England for the past two decades and more recently has also become pronounced in Welsh debating too.
Until 2017, there were only two teams with more than one female debater on Team England and fewer than ten BAME debaters have ever represented England. Both England and Wales have suffered from an underrepresentation of state educated debaters.
Over the past two years, we have sought to improve diversity in representation in all selection stages, with promising results. Accessibility has been improved with our trial procedures rewarding potential as well as experience, the addition of a fifth space on the English team and our conviction of the link between the teams’ diversity and their competitive success.
We are now ready to build on these efforts by making explicit some of the more implicit measures taken. This will be done by implementing minimum thresholds in the first stages of selection for groups that have been underrepresented on the teams in recent years and by significantly prolonging the time after selection for the coaches to work with a selection of 10 debaters.
What does that mean for the application process going forwards?
We are proudly making an explicit move to correct the imbalance in access to opportunities which has resulted in skewed representation at the top of secondary school debating. We are increasingly aware of the role we play as a charity in providing opportunities to debate at the highest level for young people and feel that the change in our selection process is a natural way for us to continue to fulfil this role.
The minimum requirements, as outlined below, reflect the differing challenges of the Welsh and English debating circuits.
Applications for the team are now open on the World Schools programme page. Best of luck to everyone applying.