Wetherby High School’s weekly newspaper the Coaching Chronicle informs the whole school community and includes many articles written by the students. Recently reporter James Metcalf visited the school and after a discussion the group of Year 13 editors developed plans to write regular articles of school news to the pages of the Wetherby News. Below is their first contribution to the paper.
Sixth Formers and Year 11 students last Friday took part in a significant event for Wetherby High School - their very own Question Time.
Students were able to put their questions to political and community leaders in an open forum.
In his role as Chair, Sam Kerry, Head Boy opened proceedings by introducing the panel, which was made up of Mr Alec Shelbrooke, MP for Elmet and Rothwell, Councillor Judith Blake, Executive Member of Children and Families Democratic Services, Mrs Cindy Bentley, Chair of Governors, Mrs Denise Podlewska, Vice President of The Wetherby Business Association and Emma Lees, Head Girl.
Sam Kerry started the debate by asking Alouki Sonigra to put her question to the panel. Alouki wanted to know whether freedom of speech was allowable under any circumstances. The panel gave differing views with Emma Lees debating rigorously with Mr Shelbrooke on the issues of this difficult question.
Mr Shelbrooke commented that democracy should allow everyone to be able to express most views even if someone else might find those views offensive.
Emma Lees and Coun Blake felt that people should not be allowed to make any comments they liked, especially if they incited hatred, or prejudice.
The next question was put to the panel by Courtney Atkins. She wanted to know whether it was right that one per cent of the world’s population would soon own more than all the rest of the world.
This again proved contentious and Mrs Podlewska and Coun Blake discussed the unfairness of such a discrepancy.
However, Mr Shelbrooke provided an interesting perspective about the amount of international aid that is given and the taxes paid by individuals such as Bill Gates of Microsoft.
Tom King then asked whether it was correct that students should be encouraged to get into debt whilst at university.
Mrs Podlewska provided very interesting comments on the difficulties graduates have in finding work after university and Councillor Blake and Mrs Bentley both mentioned how much had changed since they went into Higher Education.
They also discussed what useful apprenticeship opportunities were currently available and that university might not always be the best option for everybody.
Mr Shelbrooke explained just how difficult it was to fund university when 50 per cent of the population go onto Higher Education.
He commented it was a difficult issue and sympathised with students but asked: “Is it right that people who do not go to university should pay for those who do?”
Sam Kerry then moved the debate onto Megan Lee’s question about what advice the panel would give to young people interested in getting into politics.
Coun Blake gave clear, enthusiastic encouragement. She explained her daughter had chosen this route and said it was important that young people got involved in politics because that is how things are changed for the better.
Mr Shelbrooke said he had wanted to become a politician since he was 11 years old. He also advised anyone interested to get their education and employment settled before entering politics.
He said being an MP was hard work but that the most rewarding aspect of the job was, “Helping people, often people who had no one else to go to.”
He said that, “Helping individuals and communities is the most rewarding aspect of my role.”
Mrs Bentley explained her own family had connections to the Women’s Suffragette Movement and she knew how many women had struggled and suffered to get the vote.
She wanted to emphasise the importance of using that vote.
The final question came from Isaac Martin. He asked what were the most important issues affecting young people today.
A lively debate ensued on the pressures created by social media and advertising on young people to conform to certain shapes, sizes and behaviour.
Sam Kerry then skilfully wrapped up the debate and thanked the panel and the audience.
Mrs Lakin, Headteacher at Wetherby High School said: “It was a real pleasure to see our Year 11 and Sixth Form students articulate their views and challenge the panel so effectively on a wide range of current affairs.
“We are very grateful to all our distinguished guests for joining us and making it such an exciting event.”
It is important to mention the valuable help that Year 13 students Jack Chester, Nicole Tsang, Alex Etherington, Matthew Blin, Calum Ward and Freddie Sandford gave to the event. They welcomed guests and chatted to them.