Pupils rise to democratic challenge in council debating chamber
Published: Wednesday, 11 July, 2018
School pupils were given first-hand experience of democracy in action when they took part in a debate and special lessons organised by Stroud District Council.
As part of National Democracy Week, the council opened the doors of its council chamber where district councillors are more often seen debating key issues in Stroud.
A total of 42 pupils and staff from Rednock School in Dursley, and Stroud High School, Marling School and Archway School in Stroud all fully engaged with the debate, organised by the council’s Elections Team on Friday, July 6.
Each school had hosted council election officials for a classroom takeover in the days leading up to the debate, to prepare their arguments and learn more about how to conduct a debate.
Under a pretend scenario, a chair and vice chair were elected, mini reports created and then the debate started on ‘Should prisoners be given the right to vote?’.
Morning sessions saw Rednock Year 10 pupils with one Year 12 pupil and Archway Year 9 pupils in mixed groups, then in the afternoon Marling and Stroud High Year 9 pupils undertook the same exercise in the same way.
Passionate and reasoned questions and arguments were fielded from both sides to the chair and vice chair of the debate, and each pupil had to stand and use a microphone as if they were taking part in a council debate for real.
Councillors Mattie Ross, Steve Lydon, Catherine Braun, Norman Kay, Nigel Cooper and Nick Hurst judged the debates and asked questions as ‘members of the public’, and they were impressed with the standard of debate from pupils from all four schools.
SDC Elections Officer Hatty Davis said: “It’s so positive to see the schools wanting to engage the pupils with democracy, and it was wonderful seeing the passion and enthusiasm from them.
“We hope this is a relationship we can continue to have with schools, as it encourages electoral registration and participation from a younger age, which is an important message that has been celebrated during National Democracy Week.”
The debate was part of National Democracy Week, which was also celebrated by Stroud District Council with a garden party at Stroud Museum in the Park to mark the 90th anniversary of equal votes for women and men.