Mayor’s debate with secondary school pupils a success

Last Updated:

Last Updated: 20 Feb 2019 8:08am

Sixteen secondary school students from Hayesbrook School and Tonbridge School joined the Mayor of Tonbridge and Malling Cllr Pam Bates for a thought-provoking debate at the Borough Council’s offices in Kings Hill on Friday 1 February.

The students chatted to the Mayor about her role as First Citizen of the borough and then took part in a debate in the Council Chamber on the following subjects:

  • Is it worth recycling?
  • Should children be allowed to have mobile phones in school?

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 many events and meetings throughout the year and chatted with them.

Mayor of Tonbridge and Malling, Cllr Pam Bates, says: “Recycling is clearly very important to the students and they spoke confidently and with enthusiasm as they put across their ideas for persuading more people to dispose of their rubbish in a sustainable way.  They also made some very good points regarding the use of mobile phones in school and they listened to and discussed each other’s ideas, which was great to see.”

After all views had been heard, the students voted on the key questions they had debated.  The result was as follows:

  • Is it worth recycling?

Yes:  15                       No:  1              Maybe:  0

Nearly all the pupils felt that it was worth recycling.  Key points raised included:

-       To help encourage recycling, perhaps people should be given some money for picking up rubbish on the streets or introduce a ‘return scheme’ and give vouchers/money off coupons if people return used cups/bottles to coffee shops etc.

-       Give people warnings and be strict about recycling – consider fines for people who do not recycle.

-       The cost of using products that can be recycled can be an issue; for example plastic knives and forks are cheaper than biodegradable ones so it would be unfair to penalise catering companies who can’t afford to pay for biodegradable cutlery.

-       Plastic bottles could be banned from schools – students should bring their own glass or paper bottles.

-       A lot of schools only have one bin for everything and only a small bin for recycling, therefore students don’t recycle enough.

-       There is a need to educate people on why we should recycle.

  • Should children be allowed to have mobile phones in school?

Yes: 14                        No: 2               Maybe: 0

Comments included:

-       Yes, because phones useful if you need to contact parents in emergency (e.g.) if bus is late/train broken down.

-       Depends on age – for Year 6 and above, yes, but younger children, no, as parents normally take them to school.

-       Social media on phones can be addictive.

-       Very useful to use for homework, taking photos of homework and online school games.  Must move with modern times but use in a good way.  Also some use their phone to access their school timetable.

-       If schools do enforce a ‘no phones’ policy then, this must apply to teachers too as a lot of teachers use their phones during lunchtime!

-       Strike a balance – Perhaps have ‘no phone’ Friday.

-       Sometimes social media can be useful to help communicate and help with homework or liaise with others in other parts of the country.

Miss Kat Higgins, from Hayesbrook School, Tonbridge, said: “It was really good to hear the students expressing their views so clearly on such important issues.  Debating is a useful skill that helps students learn about themselves, think on their feet, and take a stand on issues. They rose to the challenge brilliantly and I’d like to say a big thank you to the mayor for inviting us along to the debate.”

Mrs Jessica Watson-Reynolds from Tonbridge School, said: “Taking part in a debate with the Mayor has been a very engaging activity for the students and a great opportunity for them to consider their views on recycling and put forward a solid argument as they practiced their debating skills.”

Tolly Wilson, one of the students at Tonbridge School said:  “I felt very professional debating in the Council Chamber over some very important issues.”

Jack Percival, also from Tonbridge School said: “It was a really informative day and great to see what happens in the Council.”

Students at Hayesbrook School agreed that the day was “educational and insightful” and “a real experience to share opinions in a formal environment.”