talented and probably could do a better job than some of the councillors

Hundreds of school children descended on the Town Hall to take over the council chamber and debate the issues that matter to them.

Friday, 29th March 2019, 3:02 pm
Updated Monday, 1st April 2019, 3:54 pm
Rosa Auda, Col Thompson,Ellie Whitman, Ethan Swift, Macy Ellerington-Bailey, Atticus Tomlinson and Charlie Dunker from The Birley Academy
Rosa Auda, Col Thompson,Ellie Whitman, Ethan Swift, Macy Ellerington-Bailey, Atticus Tomlinson and Charlie Dunker from The Birley Academy

In groups, the young political leaders of tomorrow took part in discussions on issues including social media, homework and whether they should have to earn their pocket money, before the question was opened to the floor for debate and finally a vote was taken.

The Our Voice Matters event was organised by Sheffield City Council to give the children the opportunity to practice their debating skills while learning about politics in a real-life environment.

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Our Voice Matters debate at the town hall. Picture Scott Merrylees

In all, 16 schools took part in the full day of debate at the Town Hall, with primary schools in the morning and secondary schools in the afternoon.

The younger cohort were joined by Councillor Tony Drabble, who acted as chair for the debates before the Lord Mayor, Councillor Magid Magid took over for the second half of the day.

Speaking at the event, Coun Magid said: “I think it is great for the young people to get involved.

“Not only are they getting involved and seeing how politics are run locally, which will make them have a better understanding, it teaches them a lot of skills about debating, putting your arguments forward, how you can construct them and how you can win people over.

Our Voice Matters debate at the town hall.

“So, there are a lot of skills they’re going to walk out here with today but also they get to do it in the Town Hall chamber which is where the heart of local democracy is in Sheffield.

“They get to witness that and hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot of these guys actually in here as councillors and in all honesty I’m sure there are loads of people here who are talented and probably could do a better job than some of the councillors we've got in Sheffield!”

Members of the Sheffield Youth Cabinet were also present, summing up key points raised during the debates and praising the children for their quality of arguments.

Our Voice Matters debate at the town hall.The Forge Valley School team.

During the debate on social media, and whether it is having a negative impact on people and society, Forge Valley pupils gave their arguments in favour raising points on the way it can lead to social isolation and lead to many becoming disconnected with others.

One student also spoke of how she was glad to not have a social media account.

Making their case against were Parkwood Academy, who spoke of the benefits social media can have for building business and how it is a great way to stay connected with family and others around the world.

Before the final vote was taken, Coun Magid urged the children to vote on merit of the arguments made – with 43 voting in favour to say social media is having a negative impact, compared to five who voted against.

Our Voice Matters debate at the town hall

The children also took part part in debates on whether it is more important to teach life skills – such as how to get a mortgage and prepare for bills – than some academic subjects and whether the voting age should be lowered to 16.

“We’ve even had primary school children here today and they’ve been really engaged,” Coun Magid added.

“I think especially in this current climate of turbulence in politics it will give them a better understanding of how to actually understand what is happening and how they feel like they’ve got a voice and they can contribute rather than feeling as if it is something that is out of touch so they can’t get involved.

“It is giving them the practice to engage a lot earlier so when they do get to 18 they’ll be able to sift through all the nonsense that they see and hear and will be able to make formulated arguments and decisions based on their understanding.”