Watford 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 Watford Grammar School for Girls, The Broxbourne School, Hertfordshire and Essex High School in Bishop’s Stortford and The Thomas Alleyne Academy in Stevenage, 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 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.

Watford Grammar School for Girls head of history and politics, Andrew Thompson said: “This is a great opportunity for young people to get an understanding of local issues, encourage public speaking and build confidence. By taking part, we hope to inspire more women into politics.”

Student, Siona Haria, said: “I want to become a lawyer in the future and taking part in the school debate has given me more understanding of how the council works and what they do.

“This is important for young people as they should have their say on important issues that 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