Students find it’s good to talk at great debate on big issues of the day
THE seats of Solihull’s council chamber were given over to a rather younger crowd than usual, when the venue hosted its inaugural sixth form debating competition.
Teams of teenagers from around the borough wrestled with questions including whether to make voting compulsory and if social media was an effective platform for political discussion.
In the grand final, last Friday afternoon, students locked horns over one of the most vexing questions facing politicians today – should Britain have a second referendum on Brexit?
Solihull School edged John Henry Newman Catholic College to win the deciding clash and clinch the title in what is hoped will become an annual competition.
The contest was organised by the council to coincide with Local Democracy Week and aimed to engage young people in some of the real- life debates raging in the corridors of power, which could have implications for decades to come. The winning team were Thomas Williams, aged 17, Oliver Rooney, 17, and Georgina Hart, 16, who said they spent a lunchtime each week preparing their arguments and discussing ideas.
One of the issues dealt with earlier in the afternoon was whether the voting age should be reduced, with more than a million 16 to 17- year- olds currently unable to cast a ballot paper. Did the team think it would make a difference?
“I don’t think it would have as big an impact as people would think but it does seem logical,” said Oliver.
“Because where it’s happened in countries it’s been remarkably successful and certainly gets people involved from a young age and possibly it’s going to make them more likely to vote for the rest of their lives.”
The group were also asked how important they thought it was for people of their age- group to get involved in the types of discussions to have taken place in the chamber.
Georgina said: “I think it’s quite impor- tant that young people engage more in politics because it does affect us and it will affect us more.
“Especially when you look at things like Brexit and that’s our future, so I think it’s important that we all know what’s going on and we’re more likely to be politically engaged in the future.
“I think also we need a fresh perspective on things.”
Baroness Lorely Burt, Solihull’s former MP and a member of the debate’s judging panel, said it was hugely important that this age group had their say.
“What heartened me from the debate is the passion that the young people felt.”
She believed that their generation had switched on to issues as a result of recent events.
“The Brexit referendum made them realise that there’s a lot at stake,” she said.
Certificates were presented to all the teams who took part by Solihull Mayor Flo Nash, and Solihull’s current MP, Julian Knight.
The winners received a shield which they will hold until the next debate.
Solihull Schools debating team Oliver Rooney, Thomas Williams and Georgina Hart, with the Mayor of Solihull, Flo Nash, Baroness Lorely Burt, Councillor Andy Mackiewicz and Phil Leivers, the council’s assistant director for learning and achievement