Debate Mate

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Debate Mate is an educational charity based in London that teaches debating in inner-city schools across the UK in areas of high child poverty. Debating is used to develop confidence and communication skills in young people with the aim of improving social mobility. It also runs programmes overseas in Nepal, Israel/Palestine, Jamaica, Rwanda, Zambia, Dubai and the United States.

Debate Mate
Debate Mate Logo, Red Circle.png
Motto Empowering the youth of today. Creating the leaders of tomorrow.
Founded October 2007 (2007-10)
Founder Margaret McCabe
Type Charity
Registration no. 1121222
Focus Providing under-privileged children with confidence, communication skills and higher order thinking through debating
  • London, England
Area served
London, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, Zambia, Rwanda, Jamaica, UAE, USA, Israel, Nepal
Services School Debate clubs, organised competitions


Debate Mate was founded in October 2007 and works with young people attending challenging inner-city schools in areas of high child poverty. They send top university students into these schools to establish and run after-school debate clubs, delivering dynamic and cost-effective peer-to-peer mentoring.[1][2] Participants develop key 21st century core skills crucial to addressing disadvantages and increasing social mobility, namely communication, teamwork and leadership skills. The lack of these skills amongst children from disadvantaged backgrounds is holding them back, stifling social mobility. Through debating, Debate Mate empowers and inspires participants, developing confidence and self-esteem and instilling belief in their abilities and what they can achieve. Debate Mate also run bespoke workshops for teachers looking to integrate debating into their classroom, and specialised training for students who want to “debate like a world champion”. Data collected shows that on average, by participating in the Debate Mate programme, students improve by nearly 2 levels on the National Curriculum English Speaking and Listening scale over the duration of the program, which is over three times the expected increase for students in a year.


Debate Mate was founded in 2007 by Margaret McCabe, who has over twenty years’ experience as a commercial barrister combined with two decades in the voluntary sector including Centre Point, NSPCC Justice for Children programme and as an advisor to Human Rights Watch.

In 2015 Debate Mate was the subject of an 8-part prime time documentary series commissioned by Sky entitled 'Kings and Queens of Speech.'

Debate Mate Core Programme[edit]

The core programme consists of a 15-week after-school debating programme led by top university students in over 200 schools across the UK (in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and Merseyside).[3]
Programme structure:

  • 16 weeks of 1-hour after school clubs with a university mentor at a mentor: student ratio of 1:15.
  • 2 weeks of local, inter-school debating competitions where each school competes against each other and are ranked in a national league table (the Artemis Urban Debate League), with the top 8 schools “breaking” to a national finals day in London in June. With the grand final being held at the House of Lords.[4]

The 2014-2015 core programme was the biggest in Debate Mate’s seven-year history; over 4,500 student took part in the programme.

The programme is being received positively with teachers quoted as saying:

  • “Debate Mate has raised the standard of oracy in school, enabling pupils to confidently share ideas, take part in whole class discussions and independently add their own opinions. It has also encouraged children with behaviour issues to positively impact the class.”
  • “Debate Mate gives children a clear sense of achievement and they feel empowered by their voice. They heard and feel listened to, and they gain a sense of the power they will have in the future to influence change.”
  • “A fantastic opportunity for the students and a brilliantly well organised event.”
Competition Winner
Debate Mate Cup 2014 Parrs Wood High School
Urban Debate League 2014 Haberdashers' Aske's Hatcham College
Debate Mate Cup 2013 Central Foundation Boys School
Urban Debate League 2013 Bridge Academy
Debate Mate Cup 2012 St Angela's
Urban Debate League 2012 Eastbury
Debate Mate Cup 2011 St Angela's
Urban Debate League 2011 RSA Academy
Debate Mate Cup 2010 Kingsford
Urban Debate League 2010 Kingsford
Debate Mate Cup 2009 Cator Park

Debate Mate Graduate Programme[edit]

Debate Mate Graduate Programme is part of the Onward Learning Programme. This programme:

  • Works exclusively with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • Prepares participants for prestigious schools' debating competitions
  • Targeted at years 10-13 (15- to 18-year-old) pupils
  • Delivered by international debating champions
  • Develops advanced debating technique and subject knowledge workshops on topics such as Law, Economics, Politics, International Relations, Science and Ethics
  • Entrepreneurship and Employability is part of an Onward Learning Programme
  • Develops financial literacy and business skills to improve employability of Debate Mate students in the UK's top-growth industries: financial services, law, media and fashion
  • Delivered by university students and leading business figures

Furthermore, this extended version of the core programme helps the participating students with university applications; they receive help with personal statements and receive one-on-one interview practices.


Debate Mate works with and is supported by an extensive network of organisations and individuals. Partners include:

2012 Debate Mate Cup Final; chaired by Arlene Phillips and Jess Dix



Michael Gove speaks at the Debate Mate Cup

Trusts and foundations

Debate Mate International[edit]

The programme is founded with a similar goal with that of its Core Programme in the United Kingdom, working with a range of age groups, aiming to promote social mobility through debate, in areas where it is needed most.

  • United States: Debate Mate are currently running a pilot of their scheme in Boston, as it looks to expand Debate Mate USA in within the next couple of years. 12 Boston Middle schools completed a 10-week programme and were mentored by students from Harvard, MIT and Brandeis. At the end of the programme 120 pupils took part in the USA Debate Mate Cup at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.[8]
  • Nepal: Debate Mate runs its core programme in partnership with the Samata Schools for impoverished Nepali students. Having taught over 1600 students in 2010, Debate Mate aim to continue and develop its presence there, by selecting and training the Nepali team for the World Schools Debating Championship 2011 in Dundee.
  • Israel/Palestine: Debate Mate partners with OneVoice, an organisation of both Israelis and Palestinians that seeks peace through a two-state solution. In 2010, Debate Mate led a number of debating workshops on controversial issues affecting the region. One Voice now seek to make the Debate Mate programme an integral part of their leadership training [9]
  • United Arab Emirates: Debate Mate was the first organisation to teach debating in the UAE. They are the official coach of their international debating team, who made their debut in 2009 at the prestigious World Schools' Debating Championships. They will continue the programme there with an aim to extend it to students from a variety of different backgrounds
  • Jamaica: Debate Mate has worked in Kingston with students from “Boys Town” School in Trenchtown and students in “Flankers Community” Montego Bay. In the summer of 2012 around 500 pupils participated in the programme.

In the summer of 2012, Debate Mate also ran programmes in Zambia, Rwanda and Hong Kong.

Alumni Successes[edit]

Debate Mate's previous students have had many successes during the charities 7 years of activity. Notable successes are listed below.

Name Achievement
Reece Weaver Won a Sixth Form Scholarship to Eton College in 2012. Studies Medicine at Imperial College London
Kelvin Anim Won a Sixth Form Scholarship to Eton College in 2012. Studies History King's College London
Victoria Gbadebo Currently reads PPE at Oxford University
Tikhoze Banda Currently studies Physics at Manchester University
Kevin Choi Won a debating scholarship to Exeter University
Mia Smith Studies at Oxford University.


  1. ^ "SHINE: Support and Help in Education - Debate Mate - Using formal, structured argument to help secondary students develop their reasoning skills, communication and confidence in a fun, yet challenging, way". Retrieved 2012-08-13. [permanent dead link]
  2. ^ "Debate Mate: The Charity Giving Young People Ambition". Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  3. ^ "Empowering the youth of today. Creating the leaders of tomorrow". Debate Mate. 2012-06-15. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  4. ^ "Lord Speaker chairs schools' debate final - News from Parliament - UK Parliament". 2012-06-15. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  5. ^ "Headlines". 2012-06-28. Retrieved 2012-08-13. [permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Empowering the youth of today. Creating the leaders of tomorrow". Debate Mate. 2012-06-07. Retrieved 2012-08-13. [permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Debate Mate | Case studies | What we fund | Esmée Fairbairn". 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  8. ^ "Empowering the youth of today. Creating the leaders of tomorrow". Debate Mate. 2012-04-30. Archived from the original on 2015-04-02. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  9. ^ "Empowering the youth of today. Creating the leaders of tomorrow". Debate Mate. 2012-01-27. Retrieved 2012-08-13. [permanent dead link]