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Debate Mate

Talent and Skills

Impact for scaleups


Primary and secondary schools covered in the last 12 months


Students reached per teaching week


of pupils more likely to put ideas forward when working in a group and 81% more confident speaking up in class


pupils feel the skills gained would help them succeed in future


of teachers believe that students are better at critically responding to arguments

Key sectors

Impact ventures / Social Impact Life Sciences & Biotech Building & Construction Manufacturing / Advanced Manufacturing Creative, digital, film, games & media Professional services Defence & security Technology & Communications Engineering / Advanced Engineering Transport & Logistics Environmental Science & Technology Farming, fisheries & forestry Finance Food & drink Healthcare

Debate Mate’s school debating clubs improve social mobility and enhance key employability skills. Active in areas of high social deprivation since 2007, the programme equips participants with valuable, transferable skills including teamwork, communication, core confidence, judgement, problem solving and critical and creative thinking. 

The programme is developing a range of in demand future skills seen as vital by scaleup leaders. Its curriculum supports and enhances critical and analytical thinking as they require students to analyse a topic and produce arguments for and against it. Students also have to exercise judgement and decision making and may have to argue for a side that they don’t necessarily agree with, which requires critical analysis, problem solving, and empathy. In a 2023 survey, 81% of respondents said they felt more confident speaking up in class and 88% said they were more likely to put their ideas forward when working in a group as a result of the programme. 

In the past year, Debate Mate has reached over 5,000 students per teaching week. It is active in 235 primary and secondary schools in six cities across the UK and is focused on delivering programmes in those primary schools which have had more than 25.5% of pupils on free school meals for the past six years and 26.9% in secondary schools. In 2022-23, it also ran its Virtual Core Programme for the second year, reaching parts of the country where it does not have a physical presence. This year, nine schools took part in weekly debate training virtually, as well as a national debating competition, the Debate Mate Cup, where they otherwise would not have had the opportunity to do so. Following a successful pilot in Wales in 2022, this year, Debate Mate piloted a 10-week hybrid programme in Grimsby in partnership with the NSPCC and delivered a second programme in Wales, this time for 17 weeks. Participating students ranked among the top in the UK and subsequently competed in the Grand Finals of the Debate Mate Cup. 

The programme has been widely recognised in 2023. It was awarded the Southwark Stands Together Award for its work in schools in the London borough and its Debate Box programme won the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s Community Engagement Award. Debate Mate also delivers a series of summer programmes to disadvantaged young people outside the UK, equipping schools with skills to run their own debate clubs. Participating countries include Mexico, Zambia, Kenya, Nepal and Rwanda. The programme’s international reach is further extended by Debate Mate Virtual which has more than 2,500 participating students from 40+ countries. 

The development of Debate Mate Schools is supported by reinvesting profits from the programme’s parent company Debate Mate Ltd which designs and delivers communication and leadership training. Debate Mate Ltd is transitioning to a tech-first company, using artificial intelligence to power skills training and give a global reach. 

Through the Boardroom to Classroom initiative, Debate Mate Limited facilitates curated interaction between students and employers. Participants share their debating expertise and benefit from careers advice and workplace insights. Debate Mate students also took part in the Bank of America Intern Challenge. More than 200 Bank of America interns took part, collaborating with over 100 students on the UK core programme. Working together, students developed and pitched innovative ideas focusing on their local community. This facilitated meaningful conversations around careers, higher education and other aspirations for both the students and the interns.

Debate Mate website