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The Deliberative Classroom: Topical Debating Resources and Teacher Guidance

The Deliberative Classroom: Topical Debating Resources and Teacher Guidance

The Deliberative Classroom is a project funded by the Department for Education (DfE) to support teachers to lead knowledge based discussions and debates with students on topical issues relating to fundamental British values (democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs), citizenship and equality.

This project comprises of:

  • A General Guidance booklet for teachers with advice and curriculum links 
  • A Debate Resource Pack on the topic of ‘religious freedom’, which includes:
  • - a teacher topic briefing 
    - three lesson plans
    - ready to use student resources.

  • Videos to help illustrate a range of strategies and approaches to create a safe space for debating controversial and avoid polarisation, and to implement a whole school approach that embed fundamental British values.
  • The premise is that discussion-based activities can help build resilience through the development of a body of knowledge to supports students think critically and increasingly independently about the challenges facing the UK as a complex and diverse democracy. The lessons and activities are designed for pupils in key stages 3 and link to the study of Citizenship, RE, History and English.

    The debate resources have been written and developed by the Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT), Middlesex University and the English Speaking Union (ESU).

    The Deliberative Classroom General Guidance for teachers explains why schools need to address topical issues in the curriculum as part of their work to build resilience to radicalisation and extremism and develop understanding of democracy and citizenship. The resources support teachers in developing student knowledge and skills of critical thinking that are necessary for informed debate.

    The Guidance also:

    • sets out the policy context in relation to fundamental British values, Prevent, Citizenship and the Equalities Duty
    • discusses the nature of controversial and sensitive issues
    • considers the role of the teacher in creating safe spaces for the exploration of such issues as part of building an understanding of democracy
    • encourages learning through debate as well as learning to debate
    • explores the key concepts developed through the resources: democracy; equality; liberty; religious freedom; freedom of speech; hate and violence; and
    • describes the curriculum opportunities and links within the subjects of Citizenship, RE, History and English.

    The General Guidance is accompanied by a resource pack on ‘Religious freedom’, which includes lesson plans and student resources.





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    The resources in the Deliberative Classroom pack focus on the topic of Religious Freedom. The pack begins with a briefing paper to help teachers think about the depth of conceptual knowledge students need as they learn about freedom and religious freedom. Additional reading and resources are also suggested.

    Three lesson plans with activity instructions are accompanied by ready to use student resources.

    Lesson 1 - 'Free to believe?' includes activities to explore the nature and limits of religious freedom in a historical context and over time. Students use case studies on themes to explore issues such as  'What happens if beliefs are dangerous or lead to harm?'

    Lesson 2 - 'Religious Freedom in school' includes an activity to help students develop proposals to interpret religious freedom in the school context as part of developing a school resolution. This includes debating proposals and tabling amendments as students work towards consensus or a majority that support the resolution.

    Lesson 3 - 'Free to ban?' is the final activity designed to enable students to draw on their previous discussions to debate whether religious freedom can be used to justify discrimination and banning others' activities. The activity uses a competitive debate to help students build and critique arguments about freedom.

    The three lessons are supported with ready to use Student Resources.

    Each lesson is designed to be used in about 60 minutes and can be adapted to suit different teaching approaches.








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    Teachers and pupils in three secondary schools across England have helped to shape the resources and trialled activities in lessons.

    The draft resources were also reviewed by colleagues at the Historical Association, the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education and by an expert academic at the University of Warwick.

    We are very grateful to everyone who has helped in the development of these materials.


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