World Schools Debating Championships

This page includes information about a range of general issues that you should consider when hosting the World Championships.

Organising Committee[]

The days are long gone when one or two people could basically run the whole Championships and deal with all aspects of its organisation. You will definitely need a team of committed individuals, and an established Organising Committee that meets with increasing regularity prior to the tournament.

You might want to list the committee's aims, to ensure that everyone (particularly those less familiar with the Worlds) is clear about what it's all for.

The following list of committee roles is only a guide-line. Some convenors will prefer to keep several of the following functions to themselves; others will prefer to spread the load as widely as possible. It might not be appropriate to involve all of these people from the beginning.


The overall responsibility rests on his or her shoulders. S/he has general control of all aspects of the competition, but needs to be supported by a staff of responsible people, each with a clearly defined task. The Convenor is the person with the ultimate budgetary responsibility, including fundraising. The Convenor will be the main public face of the tournament in meetings with sponsors, potential patrons and VIPs, governmental and municipal authorities, etc. Above all, in the final analysis, the Convenor is answerable to the World Schools Debating Council.


All financial affairs should be taken off the Convenor’s shoulders, at least for the duration of the competition itself. The Treasurer is responsible for all disbursements, and for making sure that all countries and individual participants have paid their fees. S/he will ensure that no guests check out from the hotel/hostel without having paid their bills for extras, if any. During the competition, the Treasurer and not the Convenor is the correct contact for any financial problems and/or demands that might occur.


To produce minutes of committee meetings, or at least note action points and chase these up if necessary.

Schools Coordinator[]

This person is responsible for making and maintaining contact with schools that are hosting debates. This includes their initial recruitment; full briefing on what is required of them during the competition itself; preparing the timetable for events at the school; assessing the rooms and facilities available; coordinating meal arrangements (lunches, coffee breaks for judges and coaches); briefing the chairpersons and timekeepers provided by the schools; and briefing ushers and other pupils brought into help with the logistics. The Schools Coordinator should establish contact with a single liaison teacher within each school.

Accommodation Officer[]

This person is responsible for contact with the hotel/hostel staff, including responsibility for all rooming arrangements. S/he will also be the interface between tournament participants and the hotel/hostel staff to prevent any problems or friction. The Accommodation Officer will ensure that meal arrangements at the accommodation are made satisfactorily, that meeting rooms are available when needed, and that the hotel/hostel facilities are being used properly. A printed list of rooms and their occupants should be prepared for everyone’s use.

Transportation Officer[]

This person is responsible for all arrangements concerning transport, beginning with picking up groups arriving at the airport, train station or bus station, and arranging transport for departing groups from the hotel/hostel. S/he will also negotiate with bus companies concerning visits to schools, out-of-town excursions, and block purchasing of rail or bus tickets for public transport if relevant. S/he will appoint a monitor for each bus to ensure that it goes to the right venue at the right time and will be in touch with the monitors at all times.

Events Coordinator[]

This person will have responsibility for all special events during the tournament, including the opening and closing ceremonies, the Grand Final, and any excursions and visits. This will involve meticulous drawing up of guest lists, sending out invitations, and following up replies. S/he will need to work in close coordination with the Public Relations Officer and the Transportation Officer. For excursions, s/he will need to plan every minute of the trips, ensure that entrance tickets are bought and, if relevant, that English-speaking guides are available.

Public Relations Officer[]

The position of Public Relations Officer is one that might have to be filled by a paid professional, unless you are lucky enough to have a volunteer with all the necessary qualifications who is free for at least one month. It is vital that the person concerned has good contacts and relations with all media outlets, and is able to write and disseminate good press releases.


This is another position that calls for a professional. A photographer needs to be on hand at major events, although if you can organise for someone to be available throughout the competition, so much the better. S/he can sell copies of the photographs and make money by so doing. You will need to arrange a group photograph and to order enough copies for all participants, with plenty more for public relations purposes after the competition is over. This photograph should be taken early on in the competition so there is plenty of time to choose the best and print it in the requisite number of copies. Copies should be given out to all participants at the closing ceremony/banquet.

Liaison with World Championships community[]

There are two levels of liaison to bear in mind:

World Schools Debating Council[]

It should go without saying that regular updates on your planning progress to the World Council will inspire confidence amongst potential attendees and help them with their own planning. Please send regular e-newsletters, and/or make them available on your tournament website. These should update people on key details, especially:

  • Registration process. When will registration open? How much will it cost? How can money be paid? What's the deadline?
  • Tournament certainty. At what stage are you absolutely confident the tournament will go ahead on the dates you've publicised - i.e. when can participants book their flights with no risk of cancellation?
  • Entry requirements. What visas, if any, are required for your country? How will you help participants with any difficulties?
  • (Closer to the time) Packing. What should people bring with them? Bear in mind they may not be used to your climate or local attitudes to dress.

Executive Committee[]

The World Schools Debating Council Executive Committee is elected by the Council to represent the interests of all World Championships participants, and one of its tasks is to keep an eye on planning for future tournaments. The Committee likes to be reassured that the tournament is on track so that any problems are seen quickly and averted if possible.

The Convenor should provide the Committee with a range of information, and it would be helpful if this information could be updated every 3 months initially, then monthly for the last 4 months of the tournament:

  • Overview of the Championships.
  • Committee make-up. Names, positions and experience of your Organising Committee (how many people are helping, and what spread of experience and access to other groups do they bring to the committee?).
  • Draft budget. Ideally updated every 3 months.
  • Timeline of key actions and decisions. This should include times by which key sponsors will be signed up, the hotel/hostel booked, transport arranged, key events booked and organised. Again, it would be helpful if this was updated every 3 months.
  • Draft schedule.
  • List of school venues.
  • Draft transport timetable.
  • List of sponsors. This should include both those which are already signed up and those you anticipate coming on board.

Organisational base: office and staff[]

The World Championships demands smooth-running systems for communication, paperwork and filing. The following are recommendations based on recent Championships; one Convenor reckoned that he dealt with 4,000 e-mails during the course of organising the tournament.

If it isn't immediately obvious where to set up base, why not ask a friendly university, school or local company? In return for sponsor status, they might be able to provide you with a spare room and even some equipment; or you could loan the equipment at a reasonable rate from elsewhere.

Unless you have a very healthy number of eager volunteers, your budget might well need to cater for paid staff, or at least a lump-sum remuneration for key organisers. In Wales 2006 there were not that many volunteers available, and two staff (one full-time and one-part-time, rising to two full-time nearer the tournament) were working flat out for the last 6 months.

Before the tournament, you're going to need either a dedicated office for World Championships organisation, or a very supportive and sympathetic work/home environment in which to set one up.

Constant access to computers is obviously essential these days, in order that you can:

  • Write and respond to e-mails
  • Set up and maintain a website
  • Draw up documents and design leaflets, newsletters etc.
  • Establish an electronic registration system

You're also going to need access to a photocopier, fax machine, telephone(s) and probably a franking machine for mail.

During the tournament, you will absolutely need somewhere in the hotel or hostel which acts as an office base. Even if your pre-tournament office is nearby, you should expect to spend a good deal of your time on site, so access to all of the above equipment is useful. It's also recommended that you get hold of at least one laptop (the Chief Adjudicator might well ask for one too), which could again be loaned from a university or provided from a local supplier at a generous discount.

Once the competition is under way, you'll need (in addition to your army of regular volunteers) at least two people who are on site - or at least on call - 24 hours a day. The Convenor will obviously be one of these, but s/he will find that there are too many tasks for one person to handle; the ability to call on someone to do a task (rearranging buses, taking someone to hospital, ordering a taxi, investigating damage) at short notice is crucial.


This refers to volunteers who help you with general organisational tasks, rather than volunteers at host schools.

Every Convenor needs plenty of volunteers: the number will depend on how many staff/committee members you have helping with the full range of practical tasks. You will find older school students (16+ years old) very useful for certain tasks, but others will need to be done by adults. You might need to put aside a small part of your budget for reimbursing volunteers' expenses, especially if you are sending them around the city/state/country to host schools. For minors, it might be necessary to get parental consent, and possibly a signed release agreement from their schools.

Here are some of the tasks that you might consider handing over to volunteers:

Before the event:

  • Helping to sort registered participants into a manageable database, and making lists of dietary/medical requirements
  • Visiting/phoning local businesses to ask for minor sponsorship or meal discounts
  • Making participants' badges
  • Stuffing welcome packs
  • Photocopying, franking and mailing letters, and other miscellaneous office tasks

During the event:

  • Helping man a welcome desk at the airport/train station, as well as the registration desk at the hotel/hostel
  • Helping people find the right buses, and/or travelling on them with participants (you could assign a volunteer to every 2 or 3 participating countries)
  • Chaperoning participants to public transport stops, to venues within walking distance, or to the correct rooms within large (non-school) venues
  • Running shopping errands
  • Handing out t-shirts, tourist passes, packed lunches etc.
  • Miscellaneous office tasks

Patrons and Presidents[]

In all tournaments, but especially in countries where debating is a new and not very widely-known activity, it is useful to have a prominent personality as patron (call him/her Patron, President or Chairman or what you like). The stature of the person will lend prestige to the competition, will look very good on the letter-head, programmes, etc., and might help your fundraising efforts – even if the person is not directly involved in this. The person could preside at formal events, such as the Grand Final and/or the closing banquet. If the person is a prominent public speaker or politician you could even consider asking him or her to chair the Grand Final. Please note: the Patron cannot be asked to act as a judge, as this is against the rules of the Championships.

Past patrons have included:

  • Cherie Blair (chaired Grand Final, 1999)
  • Tony Blair (President, 1999 - wrote letter for Handbook)
  • HRH Princess Anne (Patron, 1992 & 1999 - both times attended a reception and met participants)
  • Nelson Mandela (President, 2001 - sadly unable to attend Grand Final at last minute)

Insurance and liability[]

You should consult with a local insurance broker as to whether you need to take out some form of insurance. One important type is "public liability insurance", which can cover matters as diverse as accidents to participants durng the competition or the media reporting inflammatory and potentially misconstrued statements made about a country, government, policy, ideology or religion in the course of a debate. If you are receiving organisational backing from a company, charity or university, then you might be able to use their existing insurance policy. It is worthwhile checking whether the competition per se should have some form of coverage (although you might, like the organisers of Wales 2006, find that the small print makes this impractical).

To cover yourself against incidents involving individual participants (e.g. theft of money, missed flights or illness), it's recommended that you insist on all participants taking out their own personal travel insurance.

Code of Conduct and complaints[]

This section deals with complaints that are made about participants' actions during the Championships. You will need to have your own procedures for dealing with complaints about the organisation of the tournament, facilities at venues, etc.

In an effort to minimise the negative consequences that might arise out of incidents during the Championships, in 2007 the World Schools Debating Council approved a detailed Code of Conduct for all participants in the Championships: debaters, team coaches, team managers, adjudicators, registered observers and other individuals. (For full details, see Annex Three of the Championships' rules.)

The rules state that all participants must sign the Code's undertaking before the start of the Championships. This means that you should ensure that participants are aware of the Code well in advance, and have the opportunity to sign it and return it to you before they depart for the event. You will probably need to issue a number of reminders to make sure that this happens. Debaters need their parents or guardians to counter sign the Code. No signed code = no participation.

If a participant breaches the Code of Conduct, then any complaints should first be reported to an appointed Complaints Officer (they will have been appointed at least 90 days before the tournament begins - see Annex Three, part 3 for more information). If necessary, Complaints Officers will refer a complaint to the Complaints Committee, whose decision is final.

Handling complaints about individuals should not, therefore, fall on the shoulders of the Convenor. However, you should be aware that at least one person (but no more than two) from the host country will sit on the Complaints Committee: see Annex Three, part 4.

Videoing debates[]

Video coverage of the main events makes a very nice souvenir. However, more important by far is the use of video debates as an educational tool. You should try to video key and good debates (of course, you don’t know in advance which are going to be good, but the Grand Final is a good bet...). You will find that many schools teach video production within their media or communication courses, and will be happy to video the debates as part of their training.

All of these videos are essential educational materials, and many countries will want to purchase copies – especially if their own teams are involved. It may be unlikely that videos or DVDs of the debates wil be able to be purchased and acquired during the competition, in which case you could make order forms available either during the Championships or on your website, and make arrangements where possible for easy purchase (e.g. through PayPal).

It is good practice - particularly if you're planning to sell videos - to ask the debaters, chair and timekeeper whether they're happy to be filmed. Ideally, there should be written consent forms, especially as these reduce misunderstandings. If you wish to film the audience, especially one containing school pupils, this might also be a contentious issue in some countries. If anybody withdraws their consent to be filmed, or their consent to publishing videos which feature them, this must be respected.

In addition, please make any film crews aware of the rules and sensitivities surrounding debates. For example:

  • They must not enter debate preparation rooms, unless they are filming a 'staged' sequence outside of the official prep time
  • They should ask debaters if they are happy to be filmed after debates (they might not be, especially if they have - or fear they have - just lost)
  • They should not film judges' discussions after a debate, especially not before the verdict is announced
  • They should ask permission to film judges giving feedback to debaters/coaches

Other issues during the tournament[]

Clear chain of command[]

It is important that particpants know who is responsible for what, who they can approach, and that such people are visible and available. People responsible for different areas - e.g. Convenor, Treasurer/Finance Oficer, Complaints Officer, Chief Adjudicator, Transport Organiser, Events Organiser, Lost Property Co-Ordinator, T-shirt seller - should be formally introduced to all participants at the competition's opening ceremony. Names and contact details of key people should be included on documents given to all participants at the start of the competition; in Germany (2004), Wales (2006) and Greece (2009), essential phone numbers were printed on the back of the name tags that the participants carried everywhere.

If the organisers can't stretch themselves to be at every venue during the competition, then they should not be afraid to instruct and brief a senior person from a guest delegation who is able to represent the World Championships at the host school, make decisions, direct the students, and possess a mobile phone number for at least one member of the organising committee to contact if required. These may often be senior adjudicators, the Chairs of judging panels or members of the Chief Adjudicator's Panel (CAP).

Communication between key personnel[]

It is essential that the Convenor and all the key personnel are in constant touch with each other during the course of the competition itself. This was a nightmare in the past, but is now much easier in the days of cellular phones. It is worthwhile approaching a telecommunications company, e.g. Motorola/Vodafone, to see if they would be prepared to loan you some phones or walkie-talkies on a sponsorship basis. In addition to key staff, you will need to be in touch with the bus monitors and with your liaison person in each school, to deal with any problems that might arise, and also to ensure that debate results are communicated to the Chief Adjudicator for tabulation purposes.


Section to be completed.