We at ESU Scotland were very excited at being given the opportunity to host the last World Members’ Conference in Edinburgh in September 2008. Over 250 delegates from 31 countries attended.

 ESU World 2008
Debate develops the powers of argument, increases understanding of key issues, boosts critical thinking and promotes engagement with society. Students who take part in debating show stronger communication skills, raised self-esteem, and are better at working in teams. Debating squarely addresses the individual motivations and abilities highlighted by Curriculum For Excellence. Debate has also been shown to have a direct positive effect on literacy standards and behaviour in schools.

As the primary provider of training and competitions to Scottish schools in the areas of public speaking and debate, ESU Scotland has developed an innovative and enjoyable way of spreading the benefits of debate to schools and pupils that have not traditionally had access to these activities.

Speak up Scotland! Science Debating Programme

Thanks to generous funding through a Science Engagement Grant from theScottish Government, the Robertson Trust and the MacRobert Trust, we launched our Speak Up Scotland! Science Debating Programme in September 2011.

The aim of the project is to get pupils talking and arguing about science, and exploring the impact of science on their everyday lives, as well as the ethical and moral implications of the latest scientific advances. As well as equipping young people with debating and research skills, we want to help themunderstand how to question and weigh up evidence, build coherent arguments, and make informed choices.

We are offer free workshops for science teachers to introduce different forms of debating techniques and activities that can be used in the classroom as a teaching aid. We provide resources packs and online materials, including debates motions, science fact sheets, questions to ask, and where to access more information. Through STEM Ambassadors pupils will have the opportunity to talk to scientists from university and industry, either in person at school visits or online.

There are six science topics for the programme, complementing the Curriculum for Excellence: renewable energy, climate change, stem cell research, space, nanotechnology, computer games.

The programme had its first ever National Final in May 2012, where ten pupils competed to convince the judges that their chosen famous figure should be chosen as the Greatest Scottish Scientist. Stepehn McGurk, a P7 pupil from John Paul II Primary School in Castlemilk, was the winner, and his engineer, Thomas Telford, was crowned the Greatest Scottish Scientist.

The programme has now expanded further and thanks to funding from Glasgow City Council, we ran a full science debating competition in Glasgow primary schools in 2012, culminating in a final in Glasgow City Chambers.

This programme is fully funded and there is no cost to participating schools. This is a massive boost for ESU Scotland and one that should lead to hundreds of pupils given the chance to debate for the first time.

General Debates Outreach

We continue to offer Debates Outreach to pupils and teachers in any subject. Built around a series of workshops for pupils and teachers, the programme is designed to be enjoyable as well as educational. Many of these workshops are provided free to the schools, thanks to the generous support provided by three Educational trusts the Williams Trust, the MacRobert Trust and the Robertson Trust, from 2008 for three years.

We have delivered workshops all across Scotland and a number of full projects in local authority areas, ranging from North Lanarkshire to the City of Aberdeen, and taking in areas such as East Renfrewshire, Stirling, West Lothian and Falkirk. We are looking forward to spreading the opportunity to take part in debating to every young Scot. We believe that regardless of academic ability or social background that all young people can benefit from debating and we are grateful to the Trusts for enabling us to continue with this work.

If you are interested in hearing more about Debates Outreach Projects, please contact debates@esuscotland.org.uk.

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