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4th Jul 2017 3:54pm News

The Deliberative Classroom: new DFE funded resources and guidance on topical debates

DfE to fund project further supporting Citizenship teachers.

New project funded by Dfe and developed by ACT, Middlesex University and the English Speaking Union

The Deliberative Classroom is a new project, funded by the Department for Education (DfE), to support teachers to lead knowledge-based debates with students on topical issues relating to fundamental British values, citizenship and equality. The guidance and resources have been developed by the Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT) in partnership with Middlesex University and the English Speaking Union.

ACT will launch the first set in a series at their National Teacher Conference, ‘Transformative Citizenship Teaching’ on 4 July at 11:30am at Middlesex University, The Burroughs, London, NW4 4BT, from 10.00am to 4.30pm.

The launch will be preceded by an address by Sophie Taylor, Deputy Director of the Due Diligence and Counter Extremism Division at the DfE, about the importance of topical debates in the classroom.

The Deliberative Classroom resources and guidance will help Citizenship, RE, History and English teachers tackle complex and controversial issues, build knowledge, critical thinking, debate and deliberation skills and compliment their subject teaching at key stage 3.

The first phase of the new resources focus on the theme of Religious Freedom and include a teacher briefing paper on the topic of Freedom and Religious Freedom and three lesson plans with 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 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 resources are available on the ACT website and on Educate Against Hate (

Teachers in three schools trialled the lessons with students. The resources were also reviewed the Historical Association, the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education (NATRE) and an academic expert from the University of Warwick.