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Primary Debating Clubs

The debating club for Primary Schools runs throughout the year with sessions taking place on a weekly basis, typically lasting 45 minutes. The sessions can be run after school or incorporated into a lesson during the school day. The ideal number of participants in a group is around 12 students however full classes of 30 can be accommodated. The club is delivered by a member of staff (teaching or non-teaching) that has experience, or merely a passion and understanding, of debating. In 2018-19, Highgate is working with St. Michael’s CofE Voluntary Aided Primary School and Brookfield Primary School to deliver these clubs.

Throughout the year, pupils in year 5 and 6 will get to grips with the basics of debating and public speaking and hopefully encourage future participation in the next stages of their education.


To provide students the opportunity to practice and develop their public speaking skills and confidence through debating.

Identified need

With debating not on the National curriculum, oratory skills are only being developed at certain, typically private, schools. Learning debating skills at early stages of education has been proven to be an effective means to improve confidence in the classroom which feeds into a wide range of examined subjects.  According to a paper by the Education Endowment Foundation, pupils who participate in spoken language interventions, such as debating clubs, make approximately five months’ additional progress over a year, and such interventions are listed among the top 10 most effective methods of improving teaching.


A member of staff who has interest/experience in debating who is available and willing to run these weekly sessions.

Access to a spare classroom after school. Another member of staff is useful to keep order in the classroom.

Member of partner primary’s senior team who is willing to lead pupil recruitment and parent communication.


Pupils in year 5 and 6 will improve their debating skills which in turn leads to great confidence in public speaking and superior general oratory ability. Those who will particularly benefit are the students who perhaps aren’t as loud in an everyday classroom environment and, with slight encouragement, will flower into self-assured contributors.

Host schools who can further engage in the sessions, through observation or assisting pupils, and we believe it could also provide a valuable CPD opportunity for teachers and/or teaching assistants.


The project started in Brookfield Primary School, with whom Highgate has had close ties for a number of years. The School had an aim to develop pupils’ oracy skills and it was hoped that Highgate could support the expansion of a small debating provision that already existed.

A member of Highgate staff that had previously delivered Debating workshops expressed an interest in running the club and developing a scheme of work to ensure its sustainability and replication in other schools.

The Primary School debating club has been run by the Highgate Chrysalis team for two years. Highgate and St Michaels Primary have worked in partnership over many years with other clubs such as early morning Maths, but for other schools such as Brookfield and Grafton this was a chance to strengthen school ties. The club will run into its third year at the start of the 2018/19 academic year with its third club leader taking the helm.


The Debating Clubs are run in the partner primary schools, either after school or built into the school day.

The partner state school provides a classroom and a member of staff to supervise the activity. Attending members of staff are encouraged to actively engage and support the sessions to ensure maximum impact for the children taking part and as a CPD opportunity.

Teaching or non-teaching staff are suitable for this club as long as a basic understanding of debating is possessed. The member of staff must commit to at least one year for continuity reasons.

The member of Highgate staff leading the club is salaried, which is the only cost associated with the club, which is free of charge to families taking part. The member of staff spends around four hours per week planning, travelling to and delivering two clubs.


Practice debates are carried out almost every week at the club. This is useful as one can track pupil progress week to week ensuring all students take part on a regular basis.

Once a year, or maybe more if time allows, students will participate in a debating tournament. In 2018, Highgate School hosted the second annual Chrysalis Primary School debating tournament. 4 Schools took part including Highgate Primary, Brookfield, St Michael’ and Highgate Junior with Brookfield coming out on top. Adding an element of competition certainly concentrates minds and sees a spike in debating quality.

Currently, quantitative assessment is not carried out. However, we are keen to explore ways of establishing such impact with our partner schools.

Pupil Involvement

The clubs are run solely for partner school pupils. However, the two schools do interact during tournaments, when Highgate pupils are invited to take part with their peers from partner schools.

The club is run for children in Years 5 and 6 (ages between 9 and 11) and participants are not gender-specific.


The St. Michael’s CofE Primary School club runs for one hour per Year 5 class each week.

The Brookfield Primary School club runs for 45 minutes for a mixed group of Year 5 and Year 6 after school, once per week.

The activity runs for the duration of the school year and we anticipate that they will continue to run in this format in future years.