Breaking social inequities through the art of debate

20 April 2023

Home>Foundation News>Breaking social inequities through the art of debate

According to The Social Mobility Commission, the UK has one of the worst rates of social mobility in the Western world, with many socioeconomic inequalities widening during an individual’s time in education. A dearth of funding and opportunity for extra-curricular activities and initiatives designed to nurture confidence and soft skills has led to an ever widening gap between education and the needs of the employer. Debate Mate is committed to closing that gap, giving young people from disadvantaged backgrounds world-class communication training through their engaging debating programmes.

Established around 15 years ago, the charity works to address cyclical societal issues created by a lack of support for students in underprivileged areas. Focusing on schools who have had a Free School Meal profile for the last 6 years, they bring the widely recognised skills and positive attributes of the art of debate to communities that have a lack of opportunity to build essential soft skills. In their tried and tested model, Debate Mate engages young people via peer-to-peer mentorship. Recruiting and training students from top UK universities, they place over 500 mentors in schools across the country, delivering their exceptional 17-week programme to 4,400 young people. Many of their Debate Mate alumni go on to become mentors themselves, a testament to the charity’s commitment to inspiring and engaging their community in the long-term, building bright futures for themselves whilst raising their peers up too.

Debate Mate is a wonderful organisation which inspires children. The debating groups and training programmes are first class.’ – Sir Michael Wilshaw, Former Chief Inspector, Ofsted

Learning beyond the classroom is known to be crucial for the development of the skills that meet employer expectations, and is vital for imbuing young people with the ambition and self belief to succeed in whatever they wish to do. At a time when 20% of schools are cutting spending on extracurricular activities, initiatives such as Debate Mate are more important than ever for ensuring existing problems are not further entrenched and are ultimately overcome. A culture of inclusivity is at the heart of how the charity operates, and the above national average demographic of their 2022-23 cohort reflected this, with 43% of students in receipt of Free School Meals, 13% with certificates for SEN, and 38% speakers of English as an Additional Language.

We believe that Debate Mate’s strategically-led and impact-informed approach to tackling deeply rooted social issues is a brilliant example of how to help young people overcome barriers, and we look forward to seeing more of their students shine on the debating stage.

Back to Foundation News