Youth Debate at Thornborough Hall

Karin Sedgwick shares her view of our fabulous Youth Debate


Being a member of the Leyburn town plan steering group has its compensations!
As part of the Leyburn Town plan, it was essential that young people are consulted.

Planning the debate took time and energy but it was a very positive experience. Mr Charlie Barnett and his debating team were excited to have the opportunity to debate in Thornborough Hall. The audience consisted of approximately 70 people including the leader and CEO of Richmondshire District Council, our MP Rishi Sunak and a selection of students and parents and a governor from school.

Unfortunately, Carl  Les, Leader of North Yorkshire County Council, was unable to attend but is hopefully going to enable the Debating Team to be involved in the County Finals at County Hall, North Allerton, and is helping the  Wensleydale school to debate in the County Hall. Watch this space!

The motion of the debate being " This house believes that the council should create more social and economic opportunities for youth" led to a lively exchange of opinions and statistics followed by questions from the audience, strictly controlled by the timekeeper. Improving transport and referring to Leyburn as being a hub for outlying villages showed that the students had done their homework and were well informed.

The debate went well with good humour and good arguments on both sides. The students were well prepared with their arguments for and against. It was said by a member of the team opposing the motion, that Leyburn has no crime! This is due to be reported back to the Prime Minister by our MP!
The team proposing the motion worn by a 5 vote majority.
Karin Sedgwick, a member of the steering group said "the idea of the formal  debate, which was put forward by the headteacher Julia Polley and Assistant Head, Charlie Barnett, was a great way of showcasing the talents of the debating team and a good way of getting the views across of the young people who live or attend school in Leyburn"
When the debate concluded everyone had time to socialise with refreshments being provided by Dawn Clarkson Associates.

Betsy who was at the debate provided us with this summary;


Opportunities must be created for young people to become involved in their communities and to have their voices heard, a gathering of councillors, church leaders, business people and an MP were told by students at a meeting in Leyburn.

“If teenagers were encouraged to be more involved they would be less disruptive, have more respect for property and lose the stereotype of being lazy and antisocial,” Imogen Hayden of Wensleydale School told the audience.


The reason teenagers don’t voice their concerns is because they feel they’re being ignored, and the more times you’re ignored, the less you try,” she said.

Imogen, 14, a member of the Wensleydale School’s debating team, was proposing the motion “This house believes that the Council should create more economic and social opportunities for youth” in the debate organised by the school and Leyburn Town Plan steering group.

She was opposed by Emrys Lawton, 16. “The very fact that we’ve been invited to debate the subject at this event is a good example of how we are being involved,” he said. Young people made up only a fifth of the population of Richmondshire, he argued, so why should they receive a disproportionate amount of town council funds?

“Why split up the money between older and younger generations when it can be spent on things that help everyone, such as transport?” he asked. He said he lived in a village where there were few buses, meaning he and his friends could not get to shops or places of entertainment.

A survey showed that fewer than10 percent of people in the county don’t have access to a car.  “But 45 percent of those people only have access to one, and that one is often used for someone to go to work, so that leaves a lot of people without a means of transport,” he said.

Sam Maunder, 14, also speaking for the motion, agreed that transport was an issue: “But if there’s nothing for the youth to be transported to, then there’s no point. Leyburn could act as a hub for surrounding villages. It’s the perfect place to put the facilities that youth could benefit from. Young people are the future of Leyburn and supporting them benefits the whole community. There is a skills shortage in Yorkshire. We need construction, manufacturing and engineering jobs and the town council should work with young people to address this.”

Rosalind Monaghan, 14, for the opposition argued for priorities to be addressed: “You can’t change how someone feels by just giving them more facilities. The truth is we do have opportunities – we have youth clubs, music groups, sports groups. I go to them, my friends go to them. There are things to do. If we keep complaining that we don’t have enough ‘stuff’  then we can’t get to the real things that matter, like public transport. We must prioritise things like that before we go on to the extras that we don’t really need.”

James Allen, 17, summarising for the team proposing the motion, answered an audience member who had asked if 16-year-olds should have been given a vote in the Brexit referendum.

“Yes, it would have boosted involvement in government and in all areas of the community,” he said, He also thought the town council should facilitate business and education links which would be “invaluable” in addressing the skill shortage and enabling young people to stay in the area when they had finished their education.

“With well-supported youth, and abundant opportunities, we would build for all of us better communities and give this beautiful corner of the world a chance to retain its culture and its vibrancy for another generation,” he said.

The team proposing the motion won by a five-vote majority. Afterwards, Richmondshire MP praised the teams for their debating skills.

“Having been in parliament this week of all weeks I can only say it’s good to be in an environment where everyone knows how to behave. Debating is important, whether it’s in a formal setting like this, or discussing Brexit around the kitchen table,” he said.

It was also important for democracy. “It’s a frightening fact that eighty per cent of over 65s turn out to vote in elections, but less than half of under 25s do. Get involved. Lobby your councillors about this town plan. Shout loudly, or your voice won’t be heard,” he said.

Karin Sedgwick, a member of the town plan steering group, said they were working with both first and senior schools in the town. “We want to engage young people and we’re working with the first school, too. The idea of the formal debate was a great way of involving the teenagers and getting their views on how they want the town to develop,” she said.