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Primary pupils given chance to debate in council chamber

North Yorkshire’s primary school children outshone the politicians this week with the heat and passion of their argument as they took their places in the North Yorkshire County Council chamber for a debating competition.

Children from three schools: Holy Trinity Church of England Junior School, Ripon; Oatlands Community Junior School, Harrogate and Skipton Parish Church Primary School, thrashed out the pros and cons of recycling in the final round. The judges – County Councillor Janet Sanderson and officers Ian Fielding, assistant director for waste management, along with Pauline Erwin, a lead schools adviser – named Holy Trinity as overall winners.

The competition had been organised by County Councillor Cliff Trotter who started the debating tradition for primary school children when he took up the annual office of county council chairman two years ago.


Cllr Trotter said: The pupils did so well and were so excited to be debating in the council chamber and then to be given lunch at county hall afterwards. It’s very important that they learn from a young age how democracy works and that we open up the council chamber to young people.


The initiative has been supported this year by County Cllr Bernard Bateman in his capacity as county council chairman. Cllr Bateman was replaced as chairman this week by Cllr Tim Swales at the authority’s annual meeting

(left to right) Cllr Cliff Trotter, Linda Bateman, Cllr Bernard Bateman and Holly Newby from Holy Trinity, with judges Pauline Erwin and Cllr Janet Sanderson


Cllr Bateman said: This has been a wonderful occasion – a great way to get children involved in what’s going on around them.


Cllr Bateman also gave thanks to Lightwater Valley which sponsored the event with two tickets for the attraction each to children from the winning team,

Cllr Trotter is now hoping to develop the competition, which this year involved schools from Craven and Harrogate districts, into a county-wide event.


After she had helped to judge the competition Pauline Erwin said: The new curriculum for schools requires that pupils should also be taught the conventions of discussion and debate, so initiatives like this are an ideal opportunity for pupils to develop these skills.

The Holy Trinity winners said that taking part had been “scary but good” and that it had helped them to learn to speak out and get their points across.


Amanda Bell-Walker, the Holy Trinity class teacher said: The council chamber provides a fabulous setting for the debate.

The children have to learn to look at an argument all the way round and get their argument across in a coherent way. It gives them tremendous confidence to do a thing like this.

I would encourage all schools to get involved.

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