Two West Midlands secondary schools are set to compete in the finale of a prestigious RSPCA-backed debating competition.

After successfully running ‘The Great Debate’ in secondary schools for a number of years, the RSPCA has now teamed up with fellow charity Debate Mate for their prestigious 2021 Grand Cup Finals.

Debate Mate is a global educational organisation, aiming to power social change through equipping children and young people with the skills and confidence to become world-class communicators through their after school debate clubs.

The competition follows a series of heats which saw 16 schools from across the UK qualify, including two from the West Midlands.

Harborne Academy (Birmingham) and Shireland College Academy (Smethwick) will both compete at the event.

Schools are set to be whittled down through a series of knockout debate rounds – including animal welfare topics – before the final two top-scoring schools will debate the importance of legally recognising animal sentience in the Debate Mate Cup x RSPCA Grand Final – which will be streamed live to the world.

Participating schools will debate the motion: “This House believes that legally recognising animal sentience is the most important step for promoting animal welfare.”

The UK Government has recently brought forward an Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, which will create a Committee which scrutinises all UK Government policy for the impact it has on the welfare of animals as sentient beings. The RSPCA is also urging the Welsh Government to do similar in Wales.

The debate will be live streamed online on 17 June from 4pm and those interested in watching can register online.

RSPCA inspector Herchy Boal will guest speak at the event, inspiring the “animal ambassadors of the future” with a discussion about her role helping animals on the frontline.

The event will be chaired by the RSPCA’s head of education David Allen.

Debating competitions has proven a key part of the RSPCA’s Generation Kind scheme, aiming to inspire young people to be kind and compassionate to animals – and the animal welfare charity is “over the moon” the scheme’s influence continues through their partnership with Debate Mate.

David said: “The RSPCA’s Great Debate programme is so important to us – and this year, we’re so excited to have partnered with Debate Mate to give pupils a fun and rewarding opportunity to debate pertinent animal welfare topics.

“We know that when pupils learn about animal welfare, they’re more likely to enjoy healthy relationships with animals and people throughout their lives. We’re over the moon to be partnering with Debate Mate, who have over 150 schools on their programme who will all be learning  about animal welfare – it’s absolutely fantastic.

“The 16 secondary schools who have qualified for this event have already done so well – and I am excited to hear their persuasive arguments and debating skills. I always learn so much from these inspiring young people.

“Secondary school pupils from the two final schools will debate the importance of sentience – and the role which legally recognising sentience plays in promoting animal welfare.

“At the RSPCA, we’re very excited that the UK Government is currently legislating to consider the impact all of its policies have on the welfare of sentient beings – but I know the pupils taking part will have fascinating insights on both sides and the role of animals in society.”

The RSPCA – with the support of educators and teachers – have written a debating animal welfare lesson plan which encourages teachers and students to host their own debates and discuss the role animals play in our lives. Materials are available for schools in England and in Wales.

David added: “Our Generation Kind scheme is all about inspiring young people to be compassionate, empathetic and understand our fellow living creatures – and school debates are a great way for children to discuss the role animals play in their lives, and how we should treat them.

“We’d urge schools and teachers to get involved – and use our bespoke animal welfare debating lesson plans; in a concept we hope will continue to inspire the animal ambassadors of the future.”

More information on the RSPCA’s educational work can be found online, including resources for schools, teachers and educators. More information on the work of Debate Mate and their global schools programme can be found here.