Rules of the Metropolitan Debating Competition

1. Name and Format

The name of the Competition shall be "The Catholic Schools' Metropolitan Debating Competition".

The competition comprises of:
Preliminary competition of 6 rounds, followed by 1 or 2 elimination rounds to find the 8 teams in each division to proceed to the finals, then quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.

For all rounds, a topic area will be provided for Years 7, 8, 9 and 10 teams. These topic areas will be emailed to schools and posted on the website prior to the commencement of the competition. There will be no topic area for any of the senior rounds.

Topics will be divided in the following way: one topic for Years 7 and 8 teams; a topic for Years 9 and 10 teams and a topic for senior teams.
Teams are given an unseen topic, based on the appropriate topic area (if one applies) on the evening of the debate. There will be a toss to decide affirmative /negative sides, followed by a 1 hour preparation period. (See item 6 below)

In all debates the style of debating is conflict debating as set out in "Taking the Initiative" 2007 edition published by the DET.

2. Entry

(a) The competition shall be composed of the following 6 divisions:

  • Senior open
  • Year 11
  • Year 10
  • Year 9
  • Year 8
  • Year 7

Years 11 and 12 make up the Senior division, Years 7 to 10 the Junior division.

(b) A school entering senior teams must enter either 2 or 4 teams.
If the entry is for 2 teams, they shall be known as Sen open A and 11A.
If the entry is for 4 teams, the additional 2 teams shall be known as Sen open B and 11B.
The Sen open A and Sen open B teams may be Year 12, composite Years 11/12 or another Year 11 team.
At all times the 11A and 11B teams will be made up of Year 11 students.

(c) A school entering the junior division, must enter either 1 team or 2 teams in each of Years 10, 9, 8 and 7.
If the entry is for 1 team, the teams shall be known as 10A, 9A, 8A, 7A.
If the school enters 2 teams, the additional teams shall be known as 10B, 9B, 8B, 7B.
The members of each team in Years 7-10 will be pupils in the year stipulated or a lower year.

(d) A school may enter both the senior and the junior divisions or either the senior or the junior division. Only the entry patterns outlined in (b) and (c) above are permitted. No other entry patterns are possible.

(e) Two aggregate shields will be awarded in the competition. The junior A's and the junior B's will be regarded as separate entries, even if from the same school and will compete separately for the Junior Aggregate Shield.
The Senior Division A teams and B teams will be regarded as separate entries, even if from the same school and will compete separately for the Senior Aggregate Shield.

(f) The teams in the junior division will compete for the Year 10, Year 9, Year 8 and Year 7 shields respectively e.g. the Year 7A's and 7B's come together to compete for the Year 7 Shield.
The Sen open teams compete for the Senior Shield (the Michael Robson Senior Shield) and the Year 11 teams compete for the Year 11 Shield.

(g) The winner of the Year 11 Shield will represent the metropolitan seniors at the Catholic Schools State Finals held on the first Friday after the HSC finishes each year.

(h) A speaker who has competed in one team must not speak in another team in the same year group in that calendar year's competition. Debaters cannot move across from one team to another. A speaker may, however, speak up a division if that team is short through illness etc. in a given round.
Any request to deviate from this rule must be made to the Executive Officer in writing prior to the debate in question.
In recognition of HSC commitments, speakers in the senior division may be allowed to change teams on a maximum of 2 occasions throughout the preliminary rounds, eliminations and finals of a calendar year.

(i) The Association allows the blending of students from two schools to form a composite team to complement or complete a school's entry pattern, provided that the Principals of both schools are informed and that one school takes responsibility for the entry fee, chairperson, timekeeper, etc.

(j) A school that does not enter the debating competition by the required entry date deadline shall be deemed not to have entered the competition for that year.

(k) A school must submit the CSDA compliance form and the Team Registration Form before the start of competition each year.

3. The Draw

(a) The first mentioned school (left-hand side of the draw) is the host school. The host school will provide the chair and timekeeper for each debate.

(b) In the draw, unless otherwise stated, A teams debate A teams and B teams debate B teams.

(c) In the case where the B teams of one school debate the A teams of another school (when a school enters only one strand of senior teams, they will be noted as the A strand), then Sen open B (from the school with 2 senior strands) debates Sen open A (from the school with just 1 senior strand) and 11B debates 11A.

(d) Except in exceptional circumstances, schools cannot request all away debates. Schools cannot request byes.

(e) A BYE means that the team is awarded a win. Therefore in the 6 preliminary rounds, if the team has 5 wins and a BYE, the team has 6 wins recorded.

4. Adjudication

While it is the responsibility of the host school to allocate the adjudicators for the debates, it is expected that visiting schools provide half of the adjudicators. When a visiting school is not able to provide half the adjudicators, the debating teacher from the host school should be informed by the Tuesday prior to the debate.
The visiting school should:

  • Give the host school four days notice of the number of adjudicators to be supplied
  • Give the host school two days notice of the Grades of these adjudicators.

The host school may allocate the adjudicators as it finds appropriate. If there is more than one visiting school, adjudicators could be allocated to debates involving the school which supplied them. However, it is often wise to use this opportunity to allocate them as objective adjudicators to a debate between the other 2 schools. Young adjudicators find that this relieves their fear of being seen as biased. In addition, a good reason for allocating adjudicators across other schools is to provide the highest grade adjudicators to the senior debates, i.e. Yr 11 and Senior Open.

Schools which indicate their intention to provide adjudicators and fail to do so on the night will forfeit the debate.


  • Must be accredited by the Association
  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • Must not be school students
  • Must not be related to any student in a team they adjudicate
  • May be recruited from members of staff, but a coach must not adjudicate a debate in which his/her own team is competing.

The Principal of the school should be in a position to vouch for the integrity of all adjudicators the school provides. It is the responsibility of the Principal to have signed the compliance statement indicating that all adjudicators supplied by their school have completed the Prohibited Employment Declaration Form.

Adjudicators accredited with a Grade 3 may adjudicate Years 7-10 debates only, and only during the preliminary rounds, elimination rounds and quarterfinals.
Grade 2 adjudicators may adjudicate all divisions including seniors in the preliminary rounds, elimination rounds and finals rounds.
Grade 1 adjudicators may adjudicate any Association debates. Grade 1 adjudicators are preferred for the finals.

Adjudicators must be familiar with the Rules of the Competition, the current CSDA Debating Adjudicator's Handbook and "Taking the Initiative" (2007) and ensure that all rules and guidelines are maintained.

Before each debate the adjudicator must be supplied with the official CSDA Guidelines for Adjudication. These are the sole and final standards to which adjudicators may refer when making a decision. Debating teachers must not supply adjudication guidelines or score sheets from other competitions.

Before each debate, the adjudicator must be supplied with 2 copies of the CSDA Debating Competition Adjudication report. This form must be used if any team member asks for a written report.

It is not desirable for adjudicators to award marks. If an adjudicator uses marks these are essentially an aid in assessing the relative performance of the teams and do not set an absolute standard. When marks are used they should reflect the decision, rather than lead to a decision not in accord with the general assessment of the debate. It follows, therefore, that marks, when used, may be adjusted as a debate progresses. Marks must never be read out in an adjudication delivery or given to students.

Adjudicators will arrive at a decision without conferring with anyone about the debate.

At the conclusion of the debate, adjudicators shall write the name of the winning team in the place provided on the Official Result Sheet, ensuring that the names of all team members have been listed.

The adjudicator must address the audience, analysing the debate and giving reasons for the decision.

The result of a debate cannot be a draw.

In the quarterfinals and semifinals (if possible) and finals, there will be panels of three adjudicators. The Executive shall allocate adjudicators to debates. When there is no panel available for one of these rounds, an experienced adjudicator will be appointed.

Whenever there is a panel of adjudicators they must not confer about the debate until it has concluded. Each must arrive at a decision independently and the result is determined by a simple majority vote.

The decision of the adjudicator will not be overturned except where there has been a clear breach of the rules of this competition. Adjudicators give their time voluntarily and their skill and integrity are highly valued by this Association.

5. Debates

(a) The debating competition is organised in a six + four or five round competition in the following way:

  • There is a qualifying period of six rounds
  • These preliminary six rounds will be organised taking note of both geography and school entry patterns in so far as this is possible
  • At the end of round 6, there will be 1 or 2 elimination rounds to find the 8 teams in each division to proceed to the quarterfinal round.
  • The elimination rounds, quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will take place according to the dates and times set for that year.

(b) Preliminary rounds:

(a) Debates will be held on Friday afternoon/evening, however in deference to the many issues raised regarding timing, supervision and availability, there will be the possibility of choosing a starting time any time after the close of the school day. This starting time needs to be negotiated between the coordinators of the two opposing schools. In deciding on the timing of the debates, the host school’s preference needs to be taken into account however schools are asked to negotiate reasonably with each other as to starting time.

(b) As in recent years, there will be only one set of topics regardless of the starting time.

(c) All junior teams in all rounds will come prepared to debate within the set topic area for that round. The Debating Coordinator (or representative) from the host school will toss a coin to allocate sides on arrival. The winner of the toss will be affirmative. Teams will be given their topic and 1 hour to prepare their case. The debate will commence on time.

(d) If a particular problem arises, e.g. a clash with a school production, and debaters from a particular team/s are involved, then that school may request of their opposition to hold that debate at another agreed time. If it is not possible for the opposition to do this, then the school with the clash will have to forfeit that/those debate/s. Once a new time is agreed, the coordinators are required to advise the CSDA in order for new topics to be provided.

(e) Elimination rounds: These debates will be impromptu with a 1 hour preparation time. They will be arranged between the schools competing. The CSDA will supply the topic when notified of the date and time of the debate.

6. Debating Preparation and Topics

(a) Topic areas, where applicable, will be placed on the website and emailed to schools before the debating season commences. The topics for each round will be posted to the host school in advance of the start of the competition.

(b) If a team has been delayed through no fault of its own, a thirty minute grace period is permitted. If after this time all speakers are not present, the speaker(s) who is/are present may begin their preparation. The speaker(s) will be allowed to enter the preparation room immediately upon arrival but preparation time will be measured from the time the first speaker began preparing. After thirty minutes of preparation under these conditions, a forfeit may be called in by the team with all members present. A debate may not begin without all six speakers present. A speaker may not speak twice in a debate.

(c) If a team is not present by the scheduled time for starting the debate, the team shall forfeit the debate. A team may choose to forfeit at any time before the debate is due to commence. The other school may not pressure the team members with regard to this. A team should be allowed fair consultation with their coach in making this decision, although this consultation should take place in a public place to avoid the suggestion that they have had assistance with their case should they choose to continue.

(d) A coin toss by the Debating Coordinator (or representative) from the host school will decide the allocation of sides. The winner of the coin toss will take the affirmative side. Each team will be given a full 1 hour preparation to prepare their case. Notes may not be taken into the preparation room.

7. Forfeit of Debate

(a) If a team forfeits more than one debate without excuse or just cause (as determined by the Executive) it shall be liable to a fine determined by the Executive.

(b) It is assumed that teams entered into this competition exist. A school may not enter a "phantom" team to make up the numbers. Any school found entering such a phantom team risks disqualification from the competition.

(c) Once the debating draw has been completed, a school must not withdraw a team except in the most exceptional circumstances. The Principal of the school must make application to the CSDA Executive Officer for approval as such a withdrawal has serious consequences for other schools. If a withdrawal does occur without approval, the school will jeopardise its opportunity to enter the competition in the following year.

8. The Preparation Room

(a) Each team may take into the preparation room the following items: A Dictionary (not a Thesaurus) of the English Language (e.g. Concise Oxford Dictionary), blank paper/cards, the rules of this competition and writing materials.

(b) Only the three team members are allowed in the preparation room.

(c) The team must remain undisturbed for the full 1 hour preparation period. This means that no one is to enter the room (whether it is to set up the debate or for any other reason), make noise near the room, or attempt to distract the teams through windows, etc.

(d) Teams which find their preparation time disrupted must report it to the teacher in charge at that venue before the commencement of the debate.

(e) The taking of mobile telephones and electronic communication/retrieval systems into preparation rooms is strictly forbidden. Teams who breach this rule will have, at the discretion of the Executive, the debate concerned regarded as a forfeit and the team may be disqualified from this competition.

(f) The host school will provide regular supervision of these rooms.

9. Speaking Times


Warning bell

Final bell

Year 7

After 3 minutes

After 4 minutes

Year 8

After 4 minutes

After 5 minutes

Year 9

After 5 minutes

After 6 minutes

Year 10, Year 11 and Senior open

After 6 minutes

After 8 minutes


10. Result Sheets

There are 2 types of result sheets. Both are vital to the competition:

  • The adjudicator's result sheet
  • The weekly result sheet.

Here's how to use the result sheets:

(a) The host school Debating Coordinator shall be responsible for ensuring that the adjudicator's result sheet for each debate is completely and correctly filled out, and in particular that each team's correct title is used (e.g. 8A, Sen open A) and that the adjudicator's name and grade can be read.

(b) After checking the adjudicator's result sheet, the host school's Debating Coordinator shall sign in the space provided. This signifies that the teacher:

  • has checked that the form is correctly completed
  • certifies that the debate has been carried out
  • acknowledges that the result recorded on the form is the result of the debate.

(c) The host school's Debating Coordinator shall supply copies of the adjudicator's result sheets to the opposing school. This is to enable the opposing school's Debating Coordinator to accurately complete the weekly result sheet and to forward this to the CSDA.

(d) The host school's Debating Coordinator shall retain the original result sheets for school records.

(e) The Debating Coordinators of both schools must email their weekly result sheet to the CSDA before Monday 5:00 p.m. each week. This is necessary because it has happened in the past that the results sent by opposing coordinators have differed. Failure to send results could disqualify you from participation in elimination and the final rounds.

(f) When a debate has been lost on a forfeit both types of result sheets must indicate this.

11. Supper

(a) At the discretion of the host school supper may be served.

(b) In the case of the elimination round and finals, the CSDA will subsidise the cost of supper.

12. The Use of Cameras

The use of cameras and audio taping devices during any competition run by the CSDA is discouraged. Any decision to audio or video tape a debate must be made prior to the commencement of any debate.
The consent of both teams, the Debating teacher and the adjudicator must be given before taping may begin. If any person involved wishes to challenge the taping, the debate must not be taped.

13. Grievance Procedures

(a) Any complaint must be in writing and signed by both the debating teacher and the Principal of the school involved. Debaters, parents, teachers and adjudicators are able to lodge complaints.

(b) Any complaint must be lodged with Executive within five working days of the debate in question.

(c) Common practice is that the school against which the complaint is lodged will be notified of the complaint. Decisions will only be overturned if one school has been in clear breach of the rules.

(d) Under no circumstances will debates be re-held to resolve an issue.

(e) The Code of Conduct of the CSDA applies in all grievance procedures.

14. The Code of Conduct

(a) All students competing in this competition must be registered.

(b) Registration means that students and their parents/guardians have read and signed a Code of Conduct form, agreeing to act in keeping with the principles expressed in the code. This applies particularly to the acceptance of the adjudicator's decision without argument.

(c) Code of Conduct forms are to be completed before the commencement of the season and filed by the Debating Coordinator. The Debating Coordinator is to forward the registration sheet, signed by the Principal, to the CSDA before the commencement of round 1 of the competition. Failure to do so could jeopardise the school's entry into the competition.

(d) In the case of a student who has not completed a Code of Conduct form debating, the student should sight and read the form before the debate, and his/her registration should be forwarded to the CSDA within five working days of the debate taking place. No team conforming to the rules of this competition is to be disadvantaged by a team which fails to do so.