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Stratford school’s election event - focus on the future generation’s issues

By Joe Chandler, Year 12, Stratford upon Avon School

ON Friday, 21st June, Stratford upon Avon School hosted the Stratford upon Avon Community Debate – Hear the Voice of the Future.

This event was designed to provide an opportunity for students to meet many of the parliamentary candidates for Stratford-on-Avon, to learn about their policies and the political process in general. Crucially, it also provided an opportunity for the candidates to learn from voters of the future about what is important to them.

Candidates in attendance were Chris Clarkson (Conservative), Seyi Agboola (Labour), Manuela Perteghella (Liberal Democrats) and James Crocker (Reform UK). Joining them were Cllr Olivia Hatch and Cllr Duncan Parker of the Green Party.

The event was in two parts. The first, an opportunity for candidates to meet two groups of students – a group of Year 12 students who wanted a chance to discuss their work concerning mental health, and a group of Year 7 scholars who wanted to raise the issue of poverty in the local area.

The Year 12 students are the pioneers of YMax, an important part of local charity, Young Minds Matter’s mission to support young people’s initiatives to make mental well-being a feature of their educational experience.

This meeting was a real opportunity for candidates to learn more about both the topic of mental health, particularly in our teenage community but also about our younger students’ thoughts about poverty and much more, as conversation levels in the room grew louder and louder and a huge range of topics were covered.

The second half of the afternoon was a Question Time-type event for 200 students. The candidates were greeted warmly and were given one minute and 30 seconds each to give a summary of their views and intentions for representing the Stratford-on-Avon constituency in the House of Commons.

When asked what they thought would be the biggest political priority for the students present, the candidates unequivocally centred their answers around education and future opportunities. A poll of the students prior to the candidates entering the room showed that although important, indeed it took second spot, interestingly, education was beaten into first place by healthcare and the NHS.

The guests proceeded to be put on the spot by students posing weighty questions: green energy, policing and public safety, affordable housing, tuition fees and more.

The culmination of the event was a session which focused on how students could make their voices heard, advice on careers in activism and politics.

After the debate was over, it was great to see many students staying behind in order to speak with the parliamentary candidates individually and ask them for advice on careers and gaining perspective on the scale and complexity of English politics.

After speaking to many of my peers, it is clear that all of the young people in attendance felt privileged to able to be directly involved with the politicians, and that the debate provided food for thought. Being able to see politics ‘in action’ has been incredibly beneficial and not only to those just about to start politics A-level in September, but to all of us.

It has given us the feeling that we are recognised and heard, as younger members of society.

All of us at Stratford-upon-Avon School would like to thank the candidates and councillors for taking time out of their busy schedules to join us. Who knows, maybe in the future, it will be one of us who was there in the audience on Friday who is running for election.

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