I’ve always felt it is incredibly important to engage young people into politics. To that end I’ve been into schools to help with citizenship classes, with politics lessons, we’ve helped organise trips up to parliament for schools and I’ve done countless assemblies. I even hold a Christmas card competition every year amongst local primary schools to help engage kids with the political process.
But there is no better way to engage youth than by giving them an opportunity to participate in the process. That is why I started, in conjunction with the Continue Trust, a Wyre Forest schools debating competition. We have just held this year’s competition, being the second. It is something that the schools are engaging with and I am keen that this becomes established as a regular event in Wyre Forest.
We all debate the whole time. Chatting in a pub about who is the best football team is a debate, albeit with no formal rules to govern how it takes place. But the skill of being able to structure an argument, how to define the parameters of the discussion, how to hold an audience’s attention and how to speak in public: all these are important life skills.
The competition is amongst 8 schools – Baxter, Bewdley, King Charles, Stourport and Wolverley secondaries from Wyre Forest, Kidderminster College, and Hagley and Heybridge secondaries from just outside the district, although this year Kidderminster College couldn’t come along. We asked the schools to debate two subjects in the first rounds – whether teaching skills is more important than academic subjects, and whether being rich and uneducated is more useful that being poor and educated. Both of these subjects are not easy to debate and in the end the final was between Stourport and Bewdley. Stourport rallied well and worked together as a slick team and emerged the victors.
But everyone came out of the experience with greater skills than they started. Formal debating is not a skill that many will need, but being able to construct a convincing argument is incredibly important to every one – just ask someone talking about a payrise!
But it is incredibly important that youngsters engage in the political process. After all, all of us in government now are looking after the country for the next generation. They have a vested interest in how things are run.