On the day that Britain learned the outcome of one of the biggest debates in its history, primary school children from across North Yorkshire gathered in the County Council’s council chamber in Northallerton to present their arguments in the final of a county-wide debating competition.
The competition was started four years ago by the County Council’s then chairman, County Councillor Cliff Trotter. In the first year, only six schools took part, but this year 34 have been involved, with heats in each district of the county.
The finalists competed at County Hall on Friday, 24 June, the day the country learned the result of the debate on the EU referendum.
This year’s finalists were Easingwold Community Primary School, Hambleton; Richmond Church of England Primary School, Richmondshire; Rossett Acre Primary School, Harrogate; Amotherby Community Primary School, Ryedale; Newby and Scalby Primary School, Scarborough; Chapel Haddlesey Church of England Primary School, Selby; Greeen Hammerton Church of England Primary School, Harrogate. The winner of the Craven heat, Cononley Primary School, was unable to attend the final.
The topic of debate was “Do you think our climate is changing?” and the winning school was Rossett Acre. The runner-up was Amotherby.
Councillor Trotter said: “I started this debate to engage more people, particularly young people, to become involved in the political process. I think the increasing popularity of the competition shows that we are doing that. The children get an awful lot from it and headteachers and teachers have become increasingly keen to get involved as they realise the benefit for their pupils.”
County Councillor Val Arnold, Chairman of the Council and a member of the judging panel for the debate, congratulated the children on the standard of their debating. She said: “To be in this council chamber and to learn from each other’s views is a great thing to do. Perhaps some of you will be in this council chamber as a councillor in future years, looking after North Yorkshire.”
The judging panel was chaired by County Councillor Janet Sanderson, Executive Member for Children and Young People’s Service, who said: “I think it is great to give people from across the county the chance to perform and show their skills in the council chamber. I really enjoyed the day. It was fabulous and I was stunned by the level of the debate. Every year the debate leaps forward in quality and this year was no exception.”
Janet Hickman, assistant head at Rossett Acre and Year 5 teacher, said: “I think it brings English teaching to life, it gives it purpose. We have done a lot of preparation for this and it has really improved the children’s writing. It is an amazing learning experience to have an opportunity like this.”
Parent Gemma Armstrong-Turner added: “As well as the debate itself, it’s wonderful to be able to come to somewhere like County Hall and experience the atmosphere.”
Rossett Acre pupil Poppy, who spoke for the motion, said: “It was good to be able to debate here. When we started the work, I never thought we would get here. We did a lot of preparation in school and I have been rehearsing non-stop at home.”
The other members of the Rossett Acre team were Mia, who spoke against the motion, and questioners Joseph, Bahar, Isabel and Niamh.