Local schools debate air quality with the Mayor in the Council chamber

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Last Updated: 11 Nov 2019 2:05pm

Primary school pupils in Tonbridge and Malling were invited to meet the Mayor of Tonbridge and Malling and debate some important issues at the Borough Council’s offices in Kings Hill on Friday 8 November.

A total of 38 pupils representing 10 schools across the borough met with the Mayor, Cllr Jill Anderson, to gain an insight into her time as Mayor and to take part in a two-hour debate in the Council Chamber on the following subjects:

  • Should we be concerned about air quality?
  • Should we have longer school days and then no homework?
  • Should teachers be paid more than footballers?

The schools were invited by the Mayor with the aim of giving young residents in the borough the opportunity to learn more about local government and to express their views on issues that matter to them.   After the debate, the Mayor showed the young people around the Mayor’s Parlour, where she hosts events and meetings throughout the year.

Mayor of Tonbridge and Malling, Cllr Jill Anderson says: “It is a great pleasure to see the interest of these children in current affairs and the world around them. They tackle the issues of the day with such great enthusiasm; it’s fascinating to have an insight into the way they think about these topics.”

After hearing all the views on each subject, the children then voted on the key questions they had debated.  The children were largely in favour of doing more to tackle air quality. The results were as follows:

  • Should we be concerned about air quality?

Yes: 37                  No: 0               Maybe: 1

Key points raised included:

  • Air pollution is dangerous and can make us ill – for example it can give you nosebleeds and can kill you
  • People should be encouraged to walk, ride a bike, or use public transport
  • If you live far away from your school then get a lift halfway and walk the rest of the way
  • More cycle lanes to encourage people to ride bikes and have more footpaths
  • Make electric cars cheaper
  • Smoking should be banned to stop air pollution
  • Put up signs to make people aware of air pollution
  • Offer free bus services for primary schools and secondary schools and more services in rural areas
  • Install air cleaning plants and plant more trees on busy crossroads for cleaner air

Opinion was with the majority being in favour of not having longer school days, with the votes cast as follows:

  • Should we have longer school days and then no homework

Yes:  6             No: 20             Maybe: 12

Some said ‘yes’ because:

  • Children learn more at school than at home
  • Studies show that home does not improve your academic ability
  • Some children do not understand how to do the homework and their parents can’t help them so they end up doing it at school anyway
  • Time relax and rest if you do not get homework

While others thought ‘no’ because:

  • There would be a lot more lesson planning for the teachers
  • You will not get as much time with your family
  • You would have to walk home from school in the dark if you stayed at school longer
  • Homework helps keep your brain active

A third interesting question was raised during the debate, which was ‘Should teachers be paid more than footballers?’

The outcome was interesting where the majority saw the value of teaching over football, with votes cast as:

Yes – 24                      No – 7             Maybe – 7

Some voted ‘yes’ because:

  • Teachers work 5 days a week whereas footballers may only play one or two matches a week
  • Teachers help shape the future of generations to come
  • Teachers work hard as they have to plan lessons and mark work whereas footballers just play for fun!

Whilst some opinions were ‘no’ because:

  • Footballers entertain us and also get people outside in the fresh air to watch the match
  • Footballers have a limited career – they usually have to retire at 35 – 40 years old whereas teachers can retire at 65 years old

Mrs Sharon Wade, from Hilden Oaks Preparatory School at Tonbridge, said: “All of the pupils really enjoyed their visit today and it was very interesting to hear their views during the debate on these important current issues. I was very proud to see how well behaved they were and how articulately they expressed their ideas. It was a great experience and we would all like to say a big thank you to the Mayor for inviting us along.”

Mrs Sally Etheridge from Kings Hill School said: “The children were really excited to meet the Mayor and to have the chance to take part in the debate in the Council Chamber.  They had some really clear ideas about the issues debated and raised some very valid points, expressing their concerns about air quality with great clarity.  We would like to thank the Mayor for giving us the chance to take part in this debate and for the ‘behind the scenes’ tour and chat. The children are already asking when they can come back and participate in the next debate!