Young people from across Staffordshire have been given the chance to talk about what matters the most to them at a special debate at the County Council chamber.
Teenagers got the chance to voice their opinions on a range of topics affecting young people in front of local decision makers, including the need for mental health within education, lowering the voting age to 16 and more.
The event took place at County Buildings in Stafford and was hosted by Staffordshire Council of Voluntary Youth Services (SCVYS) in partnership with Staffordshire County Council.
The young people, aged 12 to 18 were supported by parents and school staff. Three teams entered, including Stafford Grammar School, Cannock Chase High School, and an independents team made up of young people from different schools around the county.
Mark Sutton, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People at Staffordshire County Council took part in the event. Mark said:
It’s important to hear what our young people have to say and the issues affecting them and this was a great event that gave them that platform to air their views.
“I enjoyed the topical debates played out between young people and I’m sure they enjoyed being in the council chamber. We had some opinionated and effective arguers take part and I’m sure the experience will encourage more young people to get involved with the big issues facing them today. You never know, but maybe one day these will be the leaders representing Staffordshire at the UK Youth Parliament and beyond.”
Phil Pusey, Chief Executive for SCVYS, said:
The young people quickly overcame initial nerves to engage in high quality debate maintaining full respect for opposing view points. It was a pleasure to chair the debate, and inspiring to see the effort put in by the participants to researching the topics. It would be great to see a bigger event in future with more schools and a wider audience of local decision makers who can hear and understand the voices of young people.”
Alex Liebman, a student from the Stafford Grammar team said:
It was a thrilling debate, bringing up vital issues which affect young people today. It helped to improve our team work, recognize the value of other opinions, and understand how political opinions can be debated effectively. It was a great experience and, if I could, I would love to take part again.”
Liz Walsh, a parent of one of the participants, said:
It was fantastic to be in the audience and witness young people grappling with controversial issues with so much passion and enthusiasm.”
The success of the night has prompted SCVYS to consider running the debate again in 2017, enabling more young people to share their views on issues that impact on local young people with the County Councillors.
Photo caption: Cllr Mark Sutton and Cllr Ben Adams with the winning team from Cannock Chase High School.
Notes to editors
SCVYS is an umbrella organisation supporting 130 Voluntary Youth Organisations in Staffordshire in a variety of practical ways. For further information on SCVYS please visit www.staffscvys.org.uk or call 01785 240378.