ETSS Wicklow is offering a new short course in Debating that aims to promote and encourage the skills of public speaking, critical thinking, logical and argumentative persuasion.  A weekly class allows students to explore a wide range of local and global topics and issues which are then discussed and debated. Debate motions are often proposed by the pupils themselves.

The ancient Socratic art of Debating nurtures the 21st century skills of creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. It empowers students to learn by putting forward cogent, evidence-backed arguments. They can also disagree and engage constructively with people with differing views. Over the three years of the course, students will explore and become proficient in a wide variety of debating formats and styles.  Some examples, but not exhaustive are:

  • Parliamentary debate
  • Online debate
  • Team debate
  • Legislative debate
  • Mock Trial
  • Lincoln-Douglas debate

Students will benefit from:

  • An academic boost - Debate will help students improve in the areas of  writing, reading and comprehension, listening, note-taking, research, data analysis, evidence-based reasoning, and overall academic performance.
  • Essential life skills - Debaters acquire unique educational benefits as they learn and develop skills far beyond what can be learnt in any other mainstream school setting.
  • Collaboration & leadership skills - Students with teammates prepare by dividing tasks, researching, and negotiating how they will consolidate their findings collectively as a unified team.
  • Critical thinking - Students learn patience and the importance of listening attentively to opponents, while thinking critically to define questions that will challenge assumptions. Students must formulate out-of-the-box proposals and innovative solutions to real-world issues, whether in healthcare, education, climate change, technology, government, or other social impact areas.


Strand 1: Communicating

Strand 2: Thinking Critically

Strand 3: Organisation & Clarity

Strand 4: Investigating


For this new short course some of the learning outcomes lend themselves to once-off assessment, others to assessment on an ongoing basis as students engage in different learning activities such as discussing, rehearsing, explaining, researching, presenting, planning and taking action.

In these contexts, students with their teachers and peers reflect upon and make judgements about their own and others’ learning by looking at the quality of particular pieces of work. They plan the next steps in their learning based on feedback they give and receive.

Ongoing assessment can support the student in their learning journey and in preparing for the Classroom-Based Assessment related to this short course. 


  • In ancient Greece, the philosopher Socrates used debate as a way of understanding the world by drawing out answers from his followers.
  • In Rome, Cicero was famed for his rhetoric and ability to show up weaknesses in government. Ultimately he paid for the power of his speechmaking with his life.
  • Medieval England saw the rise of Parliament in order to aid the Kings. In fact Parliament is derived from the French word 'parler' (to speak). As Parliament evolved however, it went beyond simply granting taxes and listening to the King, instead becoming a place of debate and policy.
  • In the 1960 Presidential election, debates were used for the first time between the two challengers- and they were televised. Famously, those who listened to the radio thought Richard Nixon had won, while those who watched on television believed the more charismatic John Kennedy had won. Kennedy's election victory is often attributed to his performances in these debates.