Hot topics such as student riots, tuition fees, racism in football and gang warfare were debated during a school’s version of the iconic news show Question Time.
Casey Dugan, 14, chaired a panel of guests including Fareham MP Mark Hoban, Mohammed Ansar from the Muslim Council of Britain, Dr Sassan Hafizi from the University of Portsmouth and Hampshire Football Association’s Sacha Nicholas at Portchester Community School.
And she more than matched David Dimbleby with her calm but firm style which kept the 80-strong audience of 11 to 16-year-olds and the guests in check.
Casey, who aspires to read medicine at Oxbridge, says: ‘It was an amazing debate but my job was challenging at times as some of the questions were quite controversial. Animal cruelty and racism in football were particularly emotional issues and I did have to shout to calm things down – but it was great to hear such a wide range of opinions.
‘The word politics puts a lot of young people off, but events like Question Time make you realise just how much it is a part of everyday life.
‘And while it’s good to listen to the adults, it was really nice to give students a platform to voice their own points of view.’
Pippa Veal, 13, who helped organise the event and made leaflets to advertise it, admits the debate changed her view on a few things.
She says: ‘My first thoughts about racism on the pitch were that it was just tasteless banter.
‘But after hearing the debate I decided it was totally inappropriate in any circumstance.
‘It was also interesting to hear people’s views on animal rights – Mr Ansar believes all animals are sacred, but then there is the argument that animal testing saves lives.
‘I really enjoy politics and debating because it is always important to have both sides of an argument before arriving at a decision.’
Elle Sambrook, head of RE, who organised the event for the second year running, adds: ‘The students were terrific and challenged our guest panellists with some excellent questions.
‘It’s great to get young people engaged in politics and debate issues that effect them.
‘The government is always emphasising the importance of listening to young people and this was a terrific opportunity for our boys and girls to be heard.’