Today 100 pupils from 20 schools across the country participated in a debate on the European Union referendum in the state rooms of the House of Commons in London.
First News, the newspaper for children, organised the event to give a voice to some of the children who, although too young to vote in the referendum on 23 June, will be living with the result.
Five schoolchildren, aged 7 to 14, were selected from each of the schools to participate in the debate after submitting videos of themselves discussing whether the UK should remain in the EU.
Sophie Bamber, a teacher of Years 7 and 8 at Lincroft School in Oakley, Bedfordshire, said: “Most children were aware the referendum is happening but just didn’t know enough to talk about it. I hosted workshops for Year 7 and 8 with our business studies teacher to explain what it’s all about, and put forward some of the arguments for and against.”
'Inspiring for my pupils'
Obtaining documents that presented the facts clearly and simply for children was the main challenge cited by Elizabeth Chambers, a Year 6 teacher at Gurnard Primary School on the Isle of Wight.
“Once the children understood all of the terminology, we struggled to find content to use in class that wasn’t overly biased," she said. "We discussed why the leaflets the pupils brought in weren’t impartial.
“It’s been really inspiring for my pupils to attend today’s debate and hear their contemporaries speak so coherently about the EU referendum. Participating has certainly helped my pupils formulate their own views and develop the skills to express them succinctly.”
The debate was presided over by John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons. Lucy Thomas, deputy director of Britain Stronger in Europe, and David Campbell Bannerman, a Conservative member of the European Parliament backing Brexit, joined the panel of eight pupils.
Pupils voted overwhelming to remain in the EU, and several pupils said they had been swayed by the afternoon’s arguments. First News continues to hold an online vote to gather the views of the nation’s children, and editor-in-chief Nicky Cox has promised to cast her vote in line with the results of the online poll which closes on 19 June.