David Dimbleby and his team at the BBC were given a run for their money by a group of young students who hosted their own Question Time-style event.
The Year 7 to 11 youngsters at Portchester Community School came out in force to quiz a panel of experts including Fareham MP Mark Hoban, chairman of Hampshire Independent Equality Forum Mohammed Ansar, the Rev Charlie Allen from St Mary’s Church at Portchester Castle and police inspector Peter Page.
Questions asked by the 120-strong audience included ‘why is the army still in Afghanistan?’, ‘why do we have to pay up to £9,000 in tuition fees?’ and ‘why should we consider Islam in the English curriculum?’.
Connor Gray, from Year 11, who chaired the event, said: ‘The pressure was on but all the panellists were very civil. I only had to step in once when the debate about government cuts got a little heated. I really enjoyed myself and learned so much from what the professionals had to say and how they interacted with the students in the audience.’
He added: ‘I certainly have a great deal more respect for Mr Dimbleby after the experience.’
Casey Dugan, 13, asked the question ‘what can be done to bring down the number of people arrested under suspicion of terrorism?’
She said: ‘It was such an honour to have my question considered and debated by people like Mark Hoban.
‘They are all so well informed and taught us a lot.
‘It is important for students to be involved in discussions about politics because it affects us just as much as the adults – but without making an effort to understand politics we’ll be left in the dark.’
Alec Roberts, deputy headteacher, said: ‘We were so lucky to have a panel whose debates inspired the children. Mr Ansar in particular made a compelling case for teaching Islam in schools and our pupils were really moved by what he had to say about the contribution made by the Arab world, not only in religion but also maths and the sciences.
‘This event was groundbreaking for us. The debates were extremely well-argued and informative.’