LIVERPOOL MP and shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg has urged more schools to add debating to their timetables – after being left lost for words by city students.
West Derby MP Mr Twigg called for more opportunities for young people to get to speak publicly, believing it boosts their confidence but gives them presentation skills which could swing job interviews in their favour.
His views were cemented after he was left in awe of students at Walton secondary Archbishop Beck, where students triumphed as Merseyside winners of a national school debating contest run by The English-Speaking Union.
The students, aged between 14 and 17, proved they could talk the talk by delivering a string of considered arguments in front of judges and an audience at The Athenaeum. They spoke on impromptu topics, including the case against lowering the voting age.
The students repeated their presentation in front of Mr Twigg who, despite taking the opposing view, praised the school for leading by example.
He said: “It is good to see debating in schools and I was so impressed by Archbishop Beck, despite finding myself ion the minority.
“I would like more schools to teach debating because it is a way of giving young people more skills and confidence and make them more ready for the world of work.”
Advocating the call for pupils to debate in schools and in lessons such as English and history, the English-Speaking Union said the subject was “not the preserve of rich independent schools now” and “a growing phenomenon”.
It pointed to the fact 350 schools from across the country, including 45 from the North west, took part in its Schools Mace debating contest alone. Merseyside mainstream schools are also embracing other debating contests such as the Rotary Youth Speaks competition organised by Rotary International every year.
Welcoming Mr Twigg’s endorsement, Archbishop Beck’s assistant headteacher Bruce Hicks said debating had proved such a hit that the school was now helping to set up a city-wide contest in primary schools.
He said: “It’s a great way of promoting stickability – helping children stick with things. It has had a tremendous effect, whether on confidence or how to research a topic.
“I would say only a handful of schools in the city do it, but all Liverpool schools could enter the English-Speaking Union competition. There’s no reason why this should not be done across schools.”