Speak your Mind 2019 attracted over 250 students to St Albans Cathedral to take part in debate on topical and political issues as the General Election approaches.

On Thursday 21 November, 250 Sixth Form pupils from 5 local schools – Loreto College, Queenswood School, St Francis’ College, Samuel Ryder Academy and Sir John Lawes School – took part in debate for the 21st Speak your Mind event at St Albans Cathedral. Speak your Mind – organised by the Cathedral and supported by the University of Hertfordshire – is based on the BBC’s ‘Question Time’ and is designed to help Sixth Form students develop skills and confidence in public speaking as well as voice what matters to them. In preparation for the event, students are given support in structuring arguments and speech delivery, before having the opportunity to test their skills by debating in the unique Cathedral setting.  

This year’s event saw students address contemporary topical and political issues, such as climate change and the environment, racism and tolerance, lowering the voter age to 16, ageism and Brexit. Students posed stimulating questions to the panel such as “Is there truth in politics?” and “Is net zero by 2050 achievable?” encouraging intimate discussion amongst both panel and audience. The panel this year was Lord Adonis (Labour politician), Maswood Ahmed (Assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain), Chris Dey (Conservative Councillor), Vicky Gosling (former RAF Group Captain and Invictus Games CEO) and James Tooley (Professor of Educational Entrepreneurship and Education at the University of Buckingham).

Remarking on the students’ enthusiasm, Chair of Speak your Mind Professor Quintin McKellar CBE, Vice Chancellor of University of Hertfordshire, said: “The young people who asked questions and entered into debate were absolutely fantastic. Their level of perception owes a credit to the schools that took part, and, in answer to their question, I absolutely think that they should get the vote.”

Maswood Ahmed, Assistant Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain and a panellist at the event, commented, “it was an honour and a privilege to be invited to speak at this grand venue which has such a historic significance, the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Britain. I was very impressed with the organisers of “Speak Your Mind” debate and I was particularly impressed by the quality and range of questions from the youth that expressed their care and concern about our society. I feel very positive about the future and I think St Alban’s Cathedral is making a fantastic contribution by letting the young people speak their mind.”

Kevin Walton, The Reverend Dr and Canon Chancellor of St Albans Cathedral, commented: “The Cathedral is very much a place for learning, engagement, and the quest for truth and the common good, so it was great to see so many young people engaged in such a range of topics with such insight and passion.”

For details on future educational events and activities organised by the Cathedral, visit here.

Image: Emma Collins Photography