Hundreds of Sheffield schoolchildren take part in town hall takeover
Hundreds of Sheffield schoolchildren took over the council chamber today to debate the issues that matter to their generation.
The young political leaders of tomorrow took part in discussions on issues including school uniform, mobiles phones and sugary snacks, before voting as a group.
The event had been organised by Sheffield City Council to allow the children to get a taste of politics and practice their debating skills.
And the children were praised not only for the quality of their arguments but also their behaviour - which was said to be an improvement on some sessions of the full council.
Dawn Dale, Labour Councillor for Shiregreen and Brightside, said it had been a ‘wonderful debate’.
She said: “I have been really impressed by the young people both by the research that they have done and the ability that they had to put across their arguments in a very professional manner.
“We were a little bit worried about the debate about whether they would have the confidence but they have been exceptional.
“And it has been a fantastic opportunity for councillors in the city to listen to the topics the young people chose to debate.”
Like many others, Coun Dale - who is also an adviser to Councillor Jackie Drayton - praised the way the children had conducted themselves in the debate.
“We do have rules in the chamber and we should behave,” she said.
“The young people today have been polite, they have followed the rules and listened to the chair.
“It was a shining example of how to behave in the council chamber.”
One of the most surprising outcomes from the debate was in the question on sweets, sugary drinks and chocolate.
38 of the young people voted against having sugary drinks in school whereas only 14 voted in favour.
“It is really interesting that young people are leading the way on this debate,” said Coun Dale.
“They are very tuned in to their health especially their oral health.”
The schoolchildren also debated whether schools should have a uniform policy and whether SATs should be scrapped.
Arguments put forward included the propensity of sugar to make kids hyperactive and the possibility getting rid of school uniforms might lead to bullying.
Rebekah Binney St Mary’s CE Academy in Walkley said: “We have brought six of our children here today - it has been fantastic.
“It has been great to see all the children debating against each other and then getting involved in the floor comments as well.
“It has been really interesting to see how the children feel about the different debates and some different ideas from what I thought they might think.
“We have been really proud of the six we have brought and all the children.
The head girl and head boy at St Mary’s, Anika and Marcus, said their school had taken part in the debate on school uniforms.
Marcus said: “Yesterday we made lots of notes on why we should and shouldn’t wear uniforms.
“We didn’t really know what we were going to do until we came here and we were told we were going to be against.”
Anika said she enjoyed debating as she like talking about people’s opinions and views and that that their debating skills had been aided by doing P4C - philosophy for children - in school.
In this, children listen to a story before thinking of ethical questions about it and debating them as a class.
In all 18 schools took part in a full day of debate at the Town Hall, with primary schools attending in the morning and secondary schools in the afternoon.