Evidence that formal debating skills may be returning to the classroom can be found in societies such as "Forum" at Charles Darwin, a 1,100-pupil grant-maintained school in Biggin Hill, Kent.
At Charles Darwin, debating is built into the English curriculum. One lesson each week is given over to a debate in the lecture theatre, where House of Commons protocol and language take over. Much of the value of this work, says David Nicholson, deputy head of sixth form, lies not only in the preparation which pupils have to do but in the follow-up tasks. "After voting either for or against the motion, delegates return to their classrooms to write up their argument," he says.
The work at Charles Darwin has raised interest outside. The Forum for Arts in Bromley (FABLE) has given the school a pound;3,500 grant, and there are plans to set up a debating network for all Bromley schools.
"We're also interested in video-conferencing and international debating," says Mr Nicholson.
Schools interested in debating can contact Mr Nicholson, who has produced a pack about "Forum" with advice on the procedure and language of debating.
David Nicholson, Charles Darwin School, Biggin Hill, Kent. nicholsond@charlesdarwin. bromley.sch.uk