Schools queue for equality debate

Su Clark

A record number of schools from the state sector are taking part in this year's Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament, organised by the Law Society of Scotland.

Pupils from 63 state schools and 21 independent schools from as far afield as the Isle of Skye and Stornoway to Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders have been debating the motion "This House believes the principle of equality has gone too far" during the first rounds of the competition.

"It is our 10th year, but it is already the biggest schools' debating competition in Scotland," says Collette Paterson, new lawyers' coordinator at the Law Society of Scotland.

This year the Law Society has teamed up with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and over the local heats, which finished in December, the second round heats, the regional finals and the grand final in June, seven separate motions regarding equality and rights will be debated by pupils.

Ros Micklem, the commission's national director for Scotland, says: "I am very excited about this partnership with the Law Society.

"One of our big challenges is ensuring that Scotland's young people understand the difference that equality and human rights can make to them, and feel enthusiastic about helping to create a fairer society.

"We want an ambitious, confident Scotland, built on fairness and respect, where there is no place for discrimination. What better way to do this than by making the next generation of Scots advocates for change? The debating tournament provides a fantastic opportunity."

The successful growth in debating in Scotland has been fuelled partly by the resources developed by the Law Society, including free DVDs of the past two years of debate sent to every Scottish secondary school, and extensive national learning materials posted online.

"The skills involved in debating can be used on so many occasions in life and work and we are really encouraged by the increasing numbers of schools entering the competition," says Ms Paterson. "We have a number of new schools competing this year and it's clear that it is not solely the preserve of the well-known debating schools."

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