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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 > Volunteer

Get involved in our work supporting young people


Performing Shakespeare participants standing outside of the Globe theatre

Why volunteer?

Share your knowledge and experience to support young people, regardless of background, to achieve their full potential.

Broaden your skill set and bolster your CV by connecting with like-minded people of all ages and professions.

Be involved in thought-provoking discussions and inspiring performances.

Meet new people and build long-lasting friendships.

Benefit from preferential membership rates if you want to become a member of the ESU.

Photo of a debating event with one speaker delivering their speech while another is standing up to ask them a question

What will you do?

Some people choose to volunteer with their local branch, helping to organise events and fundraise for our work. Most of our volunteers support the ESU by judging at one of our competitions.

As a volunteer judge, you will work with fellow volunteers to provide positive and constructive feedback to young people involved in competitions that take place both online and in-person.

However you choose to help, you will join a friendly network of volunteers committed to supporting young people.


How to apply

Applications to volunteer are open year-round.

Sign up now to register your interest using this link and a member of the team will be in touch. If you have any questions, please call 020 7529 1591 or email and our Alumni and Volunteer Manager, Tom Kirkham will be in touch.

For a detailed overview of what being a competition judge with the ESU involves, please download the Opportunity Description.

Our competitions

We run a rolling recruitment of volunteer judges with full training provided.

Watch this short video to find out more about our competitions and their impact on young people’s lives.

ESU-Churchill Public Speaking Competition Judge


  • WHAT: Largest public speaking competition for schools in England and Wales 
  • AGE: Ages 13 – 16 (Years 9 – 11) 
  • HOW: Register your school today 
  • WHEN: November – May
  • Find our more information here 




ESU Performing Shakespeare Competition Judge


  • WHAT: Inclusive, accessible competition allowing students to perform Shakespeare 
  • AGE: Ages 11 – 14 (Years 7 – 9) 
  • HOW: Register your school today 
  • WHEN: November – June 
  • Find out more information here 

Schools’ Mace Debating competition


  • WHAT: Oldest and largest debating competition for schools 
  • AGE: Ages 11 – 18 (Years 7-13) 
  • WHEN: Heats begin in November, with the grand final in late March 
  • Find out more information here

Volunteering FAQs

How do I sign up? 

Volunteers can sign up to volunteer by completing our sign-up form.

Do I have to complete training? 

Yes, every volunteer needs to complete online training which includes vital information on the format of each competition, how to mark, how to provide positive and constructive feedback, and our safeguarding policy.

How many times can I volunteer? 

Volunteers are more than welcome to sign up for as many competitions as possible. Please note that we require three volunteers at each competition heat. 

Do I need to be a member to become a volunteer? 

No, but we do offer a great discount on our ESU membership if you become a volunteer. 

How do I sign up to judge at a competition? 

You will receive an email with details of the competition we need volunteers for, including where they are, dates and times, with instructions how to sign up to each competition.

Can I claim my travel expenses? 

If you have to travel to volunteer, you can claim expenses by completing our ESU expenses claim form. Please note you need to keep copies of any travel receipts and follow our expense policy. This means using public transport wherever possible and the most cost effective transport option. 

What if I am late for a competition? 

If you are running late for a competition, please email or call our Alumni and Volunteer Manager, Tom Kirkham on 020 7529 1591. 

A student explaining his point of view/giving an answer to a question while his peers listen to him
ESU Discover Your Voice teacher giving instructions to his students while they joyfully listen to him

What to expect as a volunteer

Volunteers will:

  • follow our safeguarding policy and procedures
  • complete full training for each competition that you sign up for 
  • follow quality-assured processes for marking and assessing performances so that competitions are fairly adjudicated
  • have opportunities to volunteer both online and in person
  • be able to volunteer as many times as you like

The ESU will:

  • give you any training and materials you need to be able to volunteer
  • keep you informed about volunteer opportunities when they arise
  • pay reasonable travel expenses 
  • offer discounted membership rates to volunteers


‘Judging the heats at the IPSC this year was one of the most inspirational experiences I’ve had. Seeing all these incredibly talented young people was awe-inspiring and gave me hope for the future’

Anita Stern, ESU alumna and volunteer judge

Read more of Anita’s story

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