Running Debate Club in Secondary School – Amara Fernando, Newstead

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This year, a debate club has been formed at Newstead Wood School for Girls: it is held weekly in a designated classroom in the befitting RPE (Religion, Philosophy and Ethics) block of the school.

 

The debate club is run by Amisha Dooraree and Antonia Anthony-Esiefiho, two Year 10 students who had the proposal of starting a debate club suggested to them by a teacher working at their school, who shared with them his vision of having a Year 10 debate team in the future which could compete against other schools. Amisha states that her and Antonia “thought it was a great idea” so they agreed to set one up with his permission and support. The debate club is open to Year 10 pupils at the school and any teachers who would like to be present, with approximately 20 students that attend the club regularly.

 

At the debate club, the students are split into two opposing groups; one group argues against and the other argues for a statement that is prompted by Antonia and Amisha. Some examples of debatable topics that they have previously chosen include: ‘humans are the centre of existence in the world’ and ‘true love exists’. These intriguing topics challenge students to discuss ideas which are out of their comfort zones. Amisha says that it is important for students to learn how to debate with valid, clearly expressed points of argument because it is “extremely useful… Debate Society doesn’t just help students get better at forming these arguments but it also gives them confidence”. Antonia says that another way in which the debate club has been beneficial to the school is “it has made our year group more social… strengthened bonds and connections throughout the forms”.  

 

Antonia says that in the debate club, they “do have a free-speech policy but with boundaries for things such as blatant racism, sexism or any form of offense without cause is not tolerated, however if it is used for evidence to strengthen an argument, it is allowed”. Amisha says that they ensured that everyone “knew it was a safe ground where people could express their points and views without fearing others”. She adds that “it has become more lively… a tense but extremely thrilling atmosphere”.

 

Amisha and Antonia both find that the debate club is enjoyable to run: Antonia says “I love it so much because I get to experience how other people’s ideas work”. Amisha says “I am so grateful to have this role… it has made me realise my passion for debating”. Currently, the debate club has paused its activity due to Newstead Wood School entering its annual summer exam period, but it will resume after the exam period is over. 

 





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