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Dulwich College understands that the benefits of debating go beyond the fun and the thrill of the competition, the camaraderie with teammates and the opportunities to travel. Boys develop:

  • Critical thinking skills: critical analysis skills are developed along with the ability to propose workable solutions. Taught to synthesise vast quantities of information, boys who debate become adept at problem solving and innovative thinking.
  • Public speaking skills: debating provides a non-threatening environment to practice public speaking, improving boys’ confidence and success at interviews
  • Academic skills: boys who debate excel in oral and written communication and greatly improve their reading comprehension. Debaters become independent learners with advanced research skills, highly valued by universities.
  • Emotional maturity: debate engages boys with serious subject matter in a mature environment. The discipline hones listening skills and helps pupils to recognise how others think.

There are currently around 50 boys in the Debating Society at Dulwich College (Years 7 to 13) and we are also starting a social debating society for boys that do not wish to compete, but do wish to improve their skills listed above.

Nationally, Dulwich College debaters are:

  • Winners of The Oxford Union Debating Competition 2014, 2015 and 2016, one of the most prestigious schools debating competitions in the world with over 800 teams competing
  • Winners of The Cambridge Union Schools Debating Competition 2014 and 2015 – remarkably, the final saw two Dulwich College teams competing
  • Winners of The Durham Union Schools Debating Competition 2015 and topping the speaker rankings for the second year in a row for the College. In 2016, we had a novice team make the semi-final, success previously unheard of in such a huge competition.
  • Dulwich College is the only ever school to win Cambridge, Oxford & Durham with a single team (2015) and the only school to win all three competitions for two years in row ( 2014 and 2015).
  • Winners of the ESU (English Speaking Union) Schools Mace Debating Competition 2014 and 2015, one of the largest and most prestigious debating competitions in England – with both teams then progressing to the International Mace final.
  • Dulwich is the top ranked debating school in the UK and one of the best in the world. It is the number of College boys who are successful sets us apart.

Internationally, Dulwich debaters are:

  • Dulwich College debaters were chosen to be part of Team England and represent the country in the World Schools' Debating Championships, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018and in 2015/16 half the team comprised Dulwich students.
  • In 2014, England won the competition, where 46 countries competed with Louis Collier ranking as eighth best individual speaker, and Will Cook first.Ronan Patrick 9th best in the world in 2015.
  • In 2015, Raffy Marshall and Ronan Patrick competed in the competition in Singapore where our own coach, Sayeqa Islam, coached the national team too.
  • In 2016, Kenza Wilks was chosen as the youngest ever Team England Captain, leading the national team to victory in Stuttgart at the World Schools' Debating Championships.
  • In 2016, Kenza Wilks, Christoph Marshall and Seb Curtis represented Team London in the 5th Annual Old Parkland Debates, Texas, USA. Here they battled national teams and regional teams from the USA and were unanimously declared as the winners.
  • In 2017 Kenza Wilks ranked best speaker in the world.
  • In 2018 Ben Joe was selected for the England team.

Dulwich Debating Coach

Sayeqa Islam, a Bangladeshi New Zealander, is an internationally renowned debater and debating coach. In 2007, she was named Best Speaker at the Austral-Asian Debating Championships, one of the world's most prestigious debating competitions and has won numerous other school and university competitions. Sayeqa has coached debating in a broad range of countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Her coaching has included being the coach of the national teams of New Zealand, India and most recently, England. Since 2012, she has directed Dulwich College's debating programme which has become the most successful in the country, having won every single major domestic and international tournament in which UK students compete. Ronan Patrick OA coached debating at Dulwich 2015 -2018 whilst continuing his academic studies at UCL. In 2018 Kenza Wilks, another Dulwich Alumnus and ranked best spearker in the world 2017 succeeds Ronan Patrick as coach.

Dulwich Schools' Debating Competition

Dulwich annually host the Dulwich Schools' Debating Competition. A firm favourite of those who attend, this competition is growing yearly and we hope that it continues to grow as we organise our 9th annual competition for September 2018. One of the first in the debating season, Dulwich Schools' boasts an exceptional panel of judges and chief adjudicators attracting students and schools nationwide. From absolute novices, to members of the national team, all students have personalised feedback to help their skills improve. Whilst Dulwich students do not compete on the day, their presence is felt by them helping to navigate and shadow judge other schools.

History of Debating at Dulwich

Dulwich College has a long tradition of debating. Long before its first society was founded in the 1860s boys exercised their critical thinking and verbal dexterity through public speaking.

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Dr Malcolm Cocks

Master in charge of Debating