Wensleydale School students have their say in debate with local MP

The Wensleydale School and Sixth Form

Wednesday, 8th February 2017

Wensleydale School students have their say in debate with local MP

Students demand council create more economic and social opportunities for youth

OPPORTUNITIES must be created for young people to have a voice in their community, a gathering of councillors, church leaders, business people and an MP were told by students.

“If teenagers were encouraged to be more involved they would be less disruptive, have more respect for property and lose the stereotype of being lazy and antisocial,” Imogen Hayden, of Wensleydale School, told the audience in Leyburn.

“The reason teenagers don’t voice their concerns is because they feel they’re being ignored, and the more times you’re ignored, the less you try,” she said.

Imogen, 14, a member of Wensleydale School’s debating team, was proposing the motion “This house believes that the Council should create more economic and social opportunities for youth” in the debate organised by the school and Leyburn Town Plan steering group.

She was opposed by Emrys Lawton, 16. “The very fact that we’ve been invited to debate the subject at this event is a good example of how we are being involved,” he said. Young people made up only a fifth of the population of Richmondshire, he argued, so why should they receive a disproportionate amount of town council funds?

“Why split up the money between older and younger generations when it can be spent on things that help everyone, such as transport?”

Sam Maunder, 14, also speaking for the motion, agreed that transport was an issue: “But if there’s nothing for the youth to be transported to, then there’s no point. Leyburn could act as a hub for surrounding villages. Young people are the future of Leyburn and supporting them benefits the whole community.”

Rosalind Monaghan, 14, for the opposition argued for priorities to be addressed: “You can’t change how someone feels by just giving them more facilities. The truth is we do have opportunities. We must prioritise before we go on to the extras that we don’t really need.”

The team proposing the motion won by a five-vote majority. Afterwards, Richmondshire MP praised the teams for their debating skills.

He said: “Debating is important, whether it’s in a formal setting like this, or discussing Brexit around the kitchen table.

“It’s a frightening fact that 80 per cent of over 65s turn out to vote in elections, but less than half of under 25s do. Get involved. Lobby your councillors about this town plan. Shout loudly, or your voice won’t be heard.”

Karin Sedgwick, a member of the town plan steering group, said: “We want to engage young people. The idea of the formal debate was a great way of involving the teenagers and getting their views on how they want the town to develop.”