Stevenage school pupils speak up at County Hall

Published: 19 Oct 2017


Pupils from four Hertfordshire schools learned how to influence local decision-making during a special debate at County Hall.

The Sixth Form pupils from The Thomas Alleyne Academy in Stevenage, Hertfordshire and Essex High School in Bishop's Stortford, Watford Grammar School for Girls and The Broxbourne School, were given the chance to debate a real life issue on whether to expand primary school places in a local school in order to meet rising demand.

They were given the chance to petition Hertfordshire County Council by role-playing as a member of the community, and then played the part of a councillor in making a final decision.

The event, hosted by the county council’s Chairman Richard Thake, was held on Thursday 12 October as part of Local Democracy Week, and was staged to help young people understand how local communities can make their view known.

Councillor Thake said: “The school debate is an essential part of local democracy week, not only because it provides young people with the opportunity to learn about the county council, but it also gives us councillors a chance to engage with them directly.

“Every year, we are continually astounded by the aptitude of the students taking part and the quality of the arguments they put forward. They were engaging and confident, and have demonstrated the importance of young people taking part in local democracy”

The students were also given guidance in their persuasive arguments from councillors Ian Reay, Judi Billing, Stephen Giles-Medhurst and William Wyatt-Lowe.

The Thomas Alleyne School KS5 curriculum manager, Giovanna Newbery, said: “People only tend to get involved with politics when it affects them directly, however, the school debate has challenged the students to use their communication skills and work with different people to engage with issues that has never affected them.”

Student, Kobbie Agyemang, said: “I have a keen interest in politics and wanted to take part to learn more about local councillors and how they benefit us.

“Young people need more awareness, as the decisions local councils make will affect them in the future.”

The debate was part of a series of events being staged this week as part of Local Democracy Week (October 9-15).

Residents can have their say on a variety of topics, including council and health services by joining the Hertfordshire County Council Citizen Panel. Visit www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/citizenspanel