Key stage 3 (ages 11-14) in U K schools has been identified as the educational period when pupils rapidly become disengaged with science, largely due to its perceived irrelevance in everyday life and the manner in which it is taught. Until recently, a heavily prescriptive National Curriculum has prevented educationists from devising and delivering more effective science education. However, since 2008 a minimum-content model has been adopted for key stage 3, permitting educators greater flexibility in the teaching process. In line with these changes, specific pedagogies such as pupil-led enquiry, cross-curricular learning and themed teaching have increasingly been advocated as means of addressing the attitudinal crisis towards science. This article reports on the use of themed debate as a way of facilitating genuine engagement with science by addressing the pertinent socio-scientific issue' Is shipping a sustainable form of transport for the 21st century?'