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Pupil-organised EU debate helps community pick a side

May 16th, 2016

A politically-minded pupil organised a debate on the imminent European Union referendum to help first-time voters decide which way to cast their ballots in June’s momentous poll.

Harris, a sixth former at Monmouth School, chaired the heated discussion at Haberdashers’ Monmouth School for Girls on Thursday afternoon.

The event saw Mark Reckless AM and Chris Bryant MP debate pros and cons of remaining in the EU alongside pupils and teachers from both senior schools.

Harris, 17, said: “The event was initially for the sake of first-time voters in Monmouth School’s sixth form, however the positive reaction to the idea of a pupil/teacher/politician debate prompted the event to be opened up first to the other schools in Monmouth, and then to the general public.

“A large and vocal audience was testament to the high levels of political activity amongst the schools and the local community.”

Bethany, a Year 12 pupil at HMSG, snapped up the opportunity to compete alongside the political heavyweights, opening the event for the proposition side.

“Bethany gave a convincing and extensive speech on all manner of subjects that were coherently tied together for the Remain campaign’s strong opener,” Harris added.

“Her opposition was Lewis, a pupil in Year 13 at Monmouth School. With experience in the field of debating, Lewis questioned whether the European Union delivers in the key tenants of good government – of course citing some political philosophy along the way!”

The students were followed by the Monmouth School teachers; Gareth Dunn of the physics department and Dr James Harrison, head of history.

Harris, who has been offered a place to study history at Cambridge next year, continued: “The debate was tightly contested between Mr Dunn’s popular metaphoric assessment of the British people’s role, or lack of it, in European law-making, and Dr Harrison’s eloquent analysis of the success of the EU’s soft-power in stabilising the continent.”

Chris Bryant and Mark Reckless concluded the speeches, with Mr Reckless furthering Mr Dunn’s central argument on sovereignty and the nature of the EU with regard to democracy.

Mr Bryant’s counter-arguments discussed the importance of Britain’s seat at the negotiating table and featured an amusing anecdote early on. Both of these speeches led well into a variety of questions on topics from immigration and boarders to trade negotiations.

Harris said: “I think the popularity of the event was thanks to the unusual format of having pupils, teachers and politicians all sharing the same platform.

“With the help of Reverend David Ibbotson, an idea intended to harness and further the political activity within the School was made a reality.

“Hopefully the success of the event will go at least some way to helping those yet undecided make up their minds and encourage the pupils who participated to get involved with politics in school – especially with the upcoming internal school referendum on the horizon.”

Watch the speeches in full.

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