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New debating chamber for the young

Europe's first dedicated debating chamber for young people was opened in the Senedd's interactive learning centre in Cardiff yesterday.

Officials say the Siambr Hywel chamber - named after Hywel the Good, who established the first National Assembly in the 10th century - will make Wales a world leader in teaching political literacy.

Citizenship and democracy will play a bigger role than previously in the new personal and social education curriculum, to be introduced this September, as a response to the growing political apathy among young people.

The Assembly's education team says the new debating chamber will help students to gain the vital communication skills needed for the Welsh Baccalaureate as the qualification is rolled out nationally.

An education service is already provided by a specialist teaching team in Cardiff Bay for pupils ranging from key stage 2 pupils to sixth-form students.

There are 12 slots available every week for two hours; one is kept exclusively for school councils. The chamber will allow pupils to vote electronically, take part in a debate and workshop, and meet their Assembly member.

In the past year, only 578 schools and colleges from Wales and England have visited the Senedd, meaning many students have missed out on the experience.

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