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Judge for yourselves

Richard Demby argues that the power of debate sets youngsters free.About 90 per cent of the girls in our sixth form are Pakistani Muslims and for these girls, self-esteem is a real issue. Citizenship has become a route for empowering our girls to speak out for themselves.

One initiative is to hold collapsed-timetable days once a term, when the whole year group gathers to debate topics. The last two have been on crime and justice, and asylum seekers and refugees.

The day starts with an ice-breaker. I set up a carousel with a ring of girls on the inside facing out and a ring on the outside facing in.

The girls are given a topic to discuss, such as different types of justice - deterrence, punishment, rehabilitation and retribution - based on discussions we have had.

They can spend about a minute talking to the person in front of them and then they shift round to the next person. It's great for creating a hubbub of noise that gives everybody the confidence to speak out without embarrassment.

We follow this up by dividing pupils into groups to make a presentation on one of these topics. The last session of the day involves role-play based on a crime case study where we have lawyers, a judge and a jury.

On our asylum and refugee day we used this final session for a formal debate, with motions such as: "Refugees are the cause of higher crime rates, discuss". Pupils learn the art of arguing on behalf of someone else and presenting in public

Richard Demby is head of citizenship for Whalley Range School, Manchester.

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