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The Great Shakespeare Debate

Since 2007 the CAPITAL Centre has collaborated with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the English Speaking Union in The Great Shakespeare Debate an event for UK schools inaugurated in 2006.

Encouraging students to embody and perform their ideas in debate, to participate actively with Shakespeare and to work together as a team, is central to the CAPITAL ethos. The Great Shakespeare Debate's motions are themed around Shakespeare and AS and A2 students receive basic debate training from the ESU and sessions on the plays from the staff of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust as well as support and coaching from university students.

The project combines the debating know-how of the English Speaking Union and the Shakespearian expertise of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. The Great Shakespeare Debate 2008/9 was bigger than ever. To accomodate the massive demand to take part that schools have expressed in the last three years of the programme, the ESU and SBT held two preliminary one-day debate events, at King's College London, and The University of Warwick, to select the teams to go on to the residential two-day finals in Stratford-upon-Avon. Each of these one-day competitions involved 24 schools, each debating twice on Shakespearian topics. The A-Level students worked with expert undergraduate and postgraduate Shakespeare and debating mentors drawn from the University of Warwick and King's College London. CAPITAL has given strong support to this project from its inception, and Warwick students have always played a crucial role in the event's success.

A case study and evaluation, In what ways did the 2010 Great Shakespeare Debate have a positive pedagogical impact upon student participants? was prepared by Oliver Turner in July 2010 . A video of the 2011 Debate is now available at the University's Knowledge Centre.

Dr Nick Walton of the Learning Department of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust says: 'Warwick undergraduates and postgraduates have acted as mentors and judges, impressing all involved with their energy, expertise, and friendliness. The Great Shakespeare Debate is a wonderful opportunity for school students to enage with Shakespeare outside of the classroom, and it also gives A-Level students the chance to experience a university environment.'

Feedback from 2009 finalists from Abbey School, Reading, and Grove Specialist Science College, Newark:

“Student mentors were great – it was great to have someone who really understood us”

“great fun, great value, very rewarding!”

“brilliant performance on stage and in debates – the closest thing to an intellectual high I have ever experienced.”

“The good debates were euphoric, adrenalin fuelled etc – it was worth bothering with”

“absolutely wonderful experience. I found I was totally enthralled by the discussions and debates and of course the spectacular Tempest performance”