Premier's Debating Challenge

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To make your online debating a little easier this year, we're introducing this simple form you can fill out to let us know when you need someone to judge your debates. Once you've completed it we'll get back to you that night to confirm it's in our calendar and get to work finding you an online adjudicator - too easy!

Competition Information

The Premier's Debating Challenge is open to all NSW government schools, with the aim of developing the public speaking and reasoning skills of students from Years 5 to 11 in 2020. We've had to make some changes to the way the challenge usually runs, and you can download a simple one-pager for each of the age divisions and access all the links to enter by clicking here.

Below is the general information about how the Premier's Debating Challenge in a normal year, just in case you're already looking forward to a more normal 2021!

What age groups can compete in the Premier's Debating Challenge?

The Premier's Debating Challenge has four different state-wide age divisions: Years 5&6, Years 7&8, Years 9&10, and Years 11&12. In addition, there is a fifth division for Year 11 students in metropolitan Sydney. Year 11 students outside Sydney should compete in the state-wide Years 11&12 age division.

How do the debates work?

Every debate in the challenge is a one hour preparation debate. Teams do not know the topic or which side of the debate they are on until one hour before the debate starts. Once the preparation time is up, three speakers from each team take turns to speak, with a fourth silent speaker helping out during preparation and during the debate.

How long do the students speak for?

The speaking times differ in each age division of the challenge, as outlined below.

Division Warning Bell Speaking time (2 bells) Continuous bell
Years 5&6 3 minutes 4 minutes 5 minutes
Years 7&8 4 minutes 6 minutes 7 minutes
Years 9&10 6 minutes 8 minutes 9 minutes
Year 11 Metro 6 minutes 8 minutes 9 minutes
Years 11&12 6 minutes 8 minutes 9 minutes

How many teams can a school enter?

Schools can enter as many age divisions as they like. In each age division, schools can enter up to two teams, who will be designated “Team (A)” and “Team (B)” on the draws for the secondary age divisions. Primary school teachers must provide appropriate nicknames for their teams, e.g. “Swans” and “Demons”, to distinguish their teams. Many schools choose to enter two teams in the Years 11&12 division, two teams in the Years 9&10 division, and two teams in the Years 7&8 division so that a large group of students throughout the school can be involved and work together on their skills.

Who can be in the debating team?

In any given debate a team will field four members. Those members can change from debate to debate, so a team can in fact be made up of a large squad of students. The students can be from any year equal to or below the age division in which the team is entered (for example, a Year 10 student can debate in a Years 11&12 team). When a school enters two teams in a division, a student cannot ever appear in both of those teams, so Team (A) would need to have a different and separate squad from Team (B).

How do schools enter the challenge?

Schools can enter the challenge by simply completing the appropriate online entry form before the deadline (you can access the forms by clicking here). For the Year 11 Metro and Years 11&12 divisions, that deadline is Wednesday 12 February 2020. For all other divisions, the deadline is Wednesday 26 February 2020. Please ensure that you include contact details for the teacher who will be looking after the team. All teachers involved should provide a direct email address (preferably your “” departmental address) to help with our organisation. We’ll email you as soon as we’ve processed your school’s entries to confirm your details. If you have any questions about the entry process, please don’t hesitate to contact us at

How much does the challenge cost?

The entry fee for the Premier's Debating Challenge is $95.00 per team (including GST). Schools will automatically be debited for this amount once they submit their entry form. Please advise your school’s finance department that this will occur. Note that fees are due on entry and cannot be refunded even where teams might subsequently withdraw.

When does the Premier's Debating Challenge run?

The Years 11&12 division runs from March to July, with the zone debates completed by the end of May. The other divisions run from April to November, with the zone debates completed by the end of June (a little later for the Years 5&6 and 7&8 divisions). All schools who enter will receive invitations to attend the Years 11&12 state final on Monday 3 August and the Years 9&10 state final which will be held in the Wilkins Gallery of the NSW Department of Education Offices Parramatta on Monday 9 November 2020.

How are the debates organised?

Once your school has entered, we’ll organise all of the teams into draws and then email the draw to you with a timetable. At the first stage of the challenge, secondary teams are organised into zones of six teams (occasionally fewer depending on entries and geography, and often more in the Years 5&6 division). Each secondary team then completes three zone debates (four in Years 5&6) and you’ll cooperate with the other schools and the adjudicators to organise the times and dates of your debates to suit your availability. Once all of the zone debates are completed, the zone champions will face each other in a knock-out competition until we have a state champion. It’s a little different in the Years 5&6 and Years 7&8 divisions, where the ten teams who win their regions meet at a three-day debating tournament to decide the state champions. Teams reaching these tournaments should be aware that they will incur travel and accommodation costs.

Who adjudicates the Premier's Debating Challenge?

In Sydney areas, adjudicators are generally appointed to each zone. Outside of Sydney, you’ll need to contact an adjudicator from the list of qualified people we’ll provide you with. Often you can just send them an email. If you have any difficulty locating someone, each region of NSW has a regional debating coordinator who knows the area and can help you appoint an adjudicator. You can also email us at and we’ll help find someone for you.

Can we debate over connected classrooms?

Definitely. Connected classrooms works really well for debating, as do a number of other easy-to-use online conferencing options if you can’t access your school’s connected classrooms set-up. If your school is in a remote area, or is just having trouble finding the time to travel to a debate, you can always organise to hold a debate that way. We’re set up in Lewisham with the standard conferencing equipment, and will be happy to help you organise connected classroom or online debates and adjudicate them ourselves.

What are the prizes?

All students involved in the challenge will receive a certificate acknowledging their participation. Certificates of congratulations will then be awarded to teams who win their zones. Medallions will be awarded to teams who reach the state final, and a perpetual trophy will be awarded to the state champions in each age division.

Sponsors and support

The Premier's Debating Challenge is supported by the Faculty of Education & Social Work in the University of Sydney, Masters Academy and the Whitlam Institute.

Contact details

If you have any questions about the Premier's Debating Challenge, please contact Justine Clarke, Speaking Competitions Officer, on (02) 8512 1172 or email: