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What is debating?

Debating is a challenging and exciting activity that helps to develop analytical thinking, team work skills, and oral presentation skills. It also provides students with the ability to engage with current affairs and helps to foster global perspectives. Our students have reported that participating in debating helps them in their academic studies, as debating helps to improve their research skills, enables them to think critically and provides practice at expressing ideas in a clear, logical, and persuasive manner.  

Working in teams of four, students are assigned a topic, such as ‘That cycling in inner-city areas should be banned’, and a side of either affirmative (arguing for the topic) or negative (arguing against the topic). Students must then devise four solid arguments for their side and present these arguments as part of a cohesive team case. They must also come up with rebuttal points during the debate to counter the opposition’s case. Debates are exciting to watch and are often won by a very narrow margin.

How does debating work at Cleveland District State High?

In Terms 1 and 2 students can enter the Queensland Debating Union (QDU) Schools’ Competition and compete against other schools from the region. Teams from Years 8 to 12 enter, and each team completes four debates over the two terms. If students win at least three debates then they progress to the semi-finals of the competition, with the possibility of entering the finals.

At the beginning of Term 1, teams are organised and coaches are assigned. Students will then meet with their coaches at least once a week, either before school, after school, or during lunch time. It is also expected that students will be working on their research and speeches in their own time, so that they can come to meetings prepared. Students wishing to compete in the QDU competition must be prepared to commit to participating in four debates, attending coaching sessions and completing all assigned work. 

In Terms 3 and 4, coaching continues with the goal of strengthening the skills learned during the first half of the year. Teams will work with other teams from other grades, with peer mentoring and tutoring being a strong focus. Teams will also have the opportunity to participate in inter-school debating. Semester 2 debating also provides an opportunity for students who did not participate in the QDU to experience debating and to see if it is something they would like to pursue in the following year’s competition.

If you are interested in debating and wish to learn more, please contact Ms Alice Elwell, Debating Coordinator, on 3824 9255 or email