On the 21st of June 2016, Stanborough School was invited to Parliament to watch and participate in the Disenfranchised Voices: The Big EU Youth Debate.
Were all the students who attended debate training interested in debating? No. To be honest, at first the only reason some of us attended was because our friends were going. However, we started to engage with the project because we realised that we had been given a once in a lifetime opportunity to debate – not in a room at a local school, not in a local church hall, but in the Houses of Parliament! Imagine our excitement as we researched and debated our points. There were times when we doubted our own courage to speak before the dignitaries, but we were determined to make our teachers, our parents, and ourselves proud.
During our preparation we learnt an important lesson, that with great opportunity comes great sacrifice. We sacrificed much of our free time to practise. However, this became less and less of a hardship: we began to enjoy it. We were given meaningful opportunities to practise arguing and rebutting and in the process, we became more confident in our ability to present and support our arguments. One activity that was particularly helpful was called “Hot Air Balloon Challenge”. Just imagine our laughter as we tried to formulate arguments designed to convince our peers not to throw us overboard, because we had knowledge and skills that could save humanity!
Finally, the big day came. We were nervous, yet excited, as we set off for the pre-debate training at Parliament House on 21st of June. Despite all the preparation, things did not go as planned. In an attempt to ensure that all participating schools were represented, some Stanborough School students were asked to give up their opportunity to participate in the debates. Selflessly and without hesitation, we graciously allowed other debaters to take our place at the podium. Were we disappointed? Yes, we were. However, we recognised the importance of providing others with the same amazing opportunities.
Surprisingly, this gave us the opportunity to exercise one of the fundamental British values we have been learning about: democracy. After voting to decide who would participate, those of us not debating gladly supported those who were chosen to debate. As a result, although not all of us debated in the Houses of Parliament, we still felt a sense of achievement as we helped our representatives to organise themselves and practise their arguments.
Consequently, we swelled with pride as Khaleel and Luana, our first speakers went up and demolished the opposition. At the beginning of the main debate, thirteen people indicated that they wanted to leave the EU. Luana and Khaleel managed to persuade 6 people to change their votes with their public speaking skills and arguments they put across. Imagine that! Two of the youngest speakers at the event had swayed the public’s opinion on an important issue!
Not to be outdone, both Jazzmine and Leah also argued with a passion and conviction about their chosen topic – the security of our country. The whole day demonstrated to us that regardless of the challenges we might face, if we work hard together and do our best, we will not only persevere, we will excel.
In summary thanks to the dedication of the IDEA staff and our teachers, we, the students of Stanborough Secondary school were given an amazing opportunity to voice our opinions and play an active role in one of the most significant moments in our history as a nation. Every student who attended left Parliament House with a greater knowledge about Brexit and immigration. Personally, I gained more confidence as I talked to people I would not normally approach and I developed important skills such as projecting my voice and using my words to captivate an audience.
I would like to close by once again thanking our teachers, our parents and the staff at IDEA who collaborated to provide us, students, with this incredible once in a lifetime opportunity. We are proud to be a part of the Stanborough family. Excelsior- Ever Higher!