The potential of young people to make a difference by simply engaging in democracy and voting was highlighted at a Question Time discussion forum hosted by North Kesteven District Council.
Question Time NK, the first of three annual events for local students to explore democracy and the importance of measured debate and discussion, saw almost 100 students ask challenging questions of five political, business and community leaders.
Each of the five panelists at the Terry O’Toole Theatre in North Hykeham event last week reflected on the maturity of the students’ contributions, both as challenges and counter-arguments, and the excellence of their engagement in topics of critical importance.
Among the topics covered there were questions relating to mental health provision, the adequacy of resources to respond to drugs issues, the suitability of Donald Trump as US president and the potential effect of that on world politics, fallout from the Brexit vote, school funding and housing availability.
Matters of diversity, inclusion and the appropriateness of overseas workers as well as Lincolnshire’s ability to attract and retain professionals sparked a particularly full and frank – but still very measured and respectful – exchange of views.
Although under 18s were unable to vote in June’s referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union, a clear three quarters of those in the audience at Question Time NK said they would have voted to remain. The potential impact of this on the final outcome was a graphic illustration of the difference that can be achieved by voter registration and participation.
Coun Lindsey Cawrey, NKDC Executive Board Member for young people’s initiatives, said: “The whole experience was a fantastic advert for young people and their ability to think rationally and explore the complexities of emotive issues such as immigration and diversity.
“The maturity the students showed and their incisive, well-informed questioning was far superior to anything I have seen on the BBC’s Question Time.
“The depth of their consideration and thought leaves me very hopeful for the future of our county and with every confidence in them as the next generation joining in the great democratic movement,” she said.
Other panelists were Coun Shirley Pannell, an independent councillor at NKDC; Marc Jones, Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner; Ursula Lidbetter, Chief Executive of Lincolnshire Co-op; and Nick Law, Head of Carres Grammar.
This was the second time NKDC has held Question Time NK, a topical debate and question session, primarily for sixth form students within the district.
All of the secondary schools were engaged, with Years 10 and 11 students involved this year.
Two further events on October 13 20 will engage younger students from years 9 and 10 in day-long activities to explore the processes, practices and principles involved in democracy and the importance of voting.
Question Time NK was hosted by BBC Radio Lincolnshire’s Melvyn Prior. He said it was ‘an amazing event tackling challenging topics and questions openly, honesty and respectfully’. “There were some very interesting questions and debate and I really applaud North Kesteven for organizing this great opportunity,” he said.
“It was marvelous to see the students thinking so deeply and engaged in such mature, good-spirited discussion, said Ms Lidbetter.
“It really bodes well for the future; I feel very confident for the future of North Kesteven, Lincolnshire and the UK with such young people in it.
Schools involved included Carre’s, Kesteven and Sleaford High School and St George’s Academy in Sleaford, North Kesteven School and Robert Pattinson School in North Hykeham and Sir William Robertson Academy at Wellingore.