Cathedral Education Centre Helps Students Speak Their Mind

On Thursday 23rd November, over 400 students from 11 schools across the region filled the Nave of St Albans Cathedral for its 19th annual Sixth Form Conference.  The event – organised by the Cathedral’s Education Centre and supported by the University of Hertfordshire – was based on the BBC’s ‘Question Time’ and was designed to give those in attendance a chance to voice their opinion on what matters to them. This year’s panel included Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, Bim Afolami, Daisy Cooper, who stood as the Liberal Democrat candidate for St Albans in the recent General Election, journalist and author Peter Hitchens, and Rabbi Pete Tobias from the Liberal Synagogue in Elstree and, as a late edition to the panel, final year law student and Law Ambassador at the University of Hertfordshire, Tom Evans. The morning’s proceedings were chaired by BBC 3 Counties Radio’s Mike Naylor.

The debate was set to be lively before it began as many more questions had been submitted in advance than had been the case in previous years.  Throughout the morning, students put questions to the panel covering a range of issues from compulsory voting and the electoral system, to tuition fees and whether there should be limits placed upon free speech. The panel were impressed by the standard of such questions, and how engaged the students were.  Speaking afterwards, Bim Afolami said he ‘loved attending the event and receiving great questions on everything from racism to tuition fees, and political culture’. This sentiment was echoed by Peter Hitchens who said ‘the standard of the questions was extremely high, and I felt that the audience were very interested, engaged, and ready to listen to unconventional and unfamiliar points of view.’

Education Officer Steve Clarke said of the morning ‘as ever, this event gives students access to debate of the highest quality on topics ranging from politics to current affairs. It is vital for them to hear MPs and figures from media and the local community sharing their opinions, especially as it shows that whilst there may be differences between them, there is also a collective will to work together whenever possible.’

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