Primary school children from across North Yorkshire argued for and against the dangers of social media when they faced each other in the final of a county-wide debating contest.
Champions from nine schools, the winners of district heats, met for the North Yorkshire schools debating competition final last Friday in the council chamber at County Hall, the headquarters of the County Council in Northallerton.
The competition was started six years ago by County Councillor Cliff Trotter, local member for Pannal and Lower Wharfedale, during his year as county council chairman. At that time only five schools signed up for the competition; this year 67 primary schools have taken part, a testament to the competition’s growing popularity.
This year’s finalists were Bedale C of E Primary, Hambleton; Mill Hill Primary, Northallerton; St Peter’s C of E Primary, Harrogate; Birstwith C of E Primary, Harrogate; Settrington All Saints C of E Primary, Ryedale; Lothersdale Primary School, Craven; St Martin’s C of E Primary Scarborough; Riverside Primary School, Tadcaster; Croft Church of England Primary, Richmondshire.
The topic of debate, chosen by last year’s finalists, was “Is social media a danger to children?” The debate was judged by a panel of county councillors and council officers. The winning school was Riverside Primary and the runner-up was Lothersdale primary.
The Riverside winners said they really valued the opportunity to learn to debate. They said the skill of speaking clearly; looking at a topic from both sides and researching their argument were all incredibly useful skills.
Riverside primary has taken part in the competition since it started. Headteacher, Ian Yapp said it was very important for children to learn to discuss social and moral issues and question stereotypes:
The spoken word is one of the most important ways of communicating and we get our children to talk about issues before we ever get them to put pen to paper and write about them. This competition provides invaluable experience.
Councillor Trotter said:
I started the competition in an effort to try to interest more young people in politics. Its increasing popularity is a real mark of success, and the standard is incredibly high. I have been so impressed by the confidence of the children they show when speaking before a room full of people. I think it’s important that the younger generation come here and see where decisions are taken that impact on their day-to-day lives.
County Councillor Janet Sanderson, Executive Member for Children and Young People’s Services and a member of the judging panel, added:
It’s wonderful to be able to give children the opportunity to perform in a setting like the council chamber, which carries so much tradition. It’s a fitting setting, too, to acknowledge the high level of the debate and the tremendous amount of preparation the schools have put in.
When the debates were over all the finalists took a personal vote on the motion. Overwhelmingly they agreed that social media is a danger to children.
They also chose the topic for next year’s competition, suggesting various subjects before taking a vote. The winning motion was “Should school uniform be banned.”