Over the coming year something very exciting is happening: The Huffington Post is teaming up with Debate Mate, the educational charity I work for, to play host to a number of blogs written by some of the university students who mentor with us.
My partner-in-crime Cerith M. Evans and I have hand-picked ten mentors to blog about their interests, predilections and specialities, and to share their experiences of working with Debate Mate.
So what, you might ask, is Debate Mate all about? Good question. We get university students to run after-school debating clubs in areas of high child poverty. Through peer-to-peer mentoring and inter-school tournaments, we've achieved fantastic results: this year we're working with over 2000 young people in 140 schools across London, Birmingham, Manchester and Bristol. Our core programme improves participants' verbal intelligence and higher-order thinking skills, and gives them the confidence to aim higher. The kids who've been with us since the charity's beginnings are now themselves students at the very best universities, and some are even running debating clubs at their old schools!
Many of our mentors are champion debaters, but they're also real human beings, with real human interests - that's why the kids who come to their clubs look up to them so much. All of which explains why, if you tune into their blogs, you'll be treated to everything from internecine politics in football, to feminist observations, via a comparison of political engagement in Rotterdam and Dagenham.
Away from our mentors' blogs, Cerith and I will be using this blog to post regular updates on how our 2011-12 programme is going, and how our work links to wider trends in education policy and schools. Expect anecdotes from the classroom, news of our kids' achievements, and statistics galore.
If you'd like to find out more about what we do, have a read of this Evening Standard article, in which one of our students explains how debating got him out of gangs and talking about social problems rather than rioting. Or to see what the Huffington Post's own Lucy Sherriff thought of our recent launch event, wander over to here.