The political stars of the future took centre stage as Tracy Brabin MP joined a panel of local politicians, academics and students to field intelligent and incisive questions at Batley Girls High School’s annual Question Time event.
Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin, Liberal Democrat Baroness Pinnock, Conservative councillor Robert Light and Professor Munro Price from the University of Bradford joined the school’s political ambassadors Hawa Patel and Hana Yaqoob in answering tough questions from year 10 and 11 students.
The event, which saw Deputy Head Gillian Hughes take on David Dimbleby’s mantle, covered a range of topical subjects from the lowering of the voting age to 16 and the housing crisis to the gender pay gap and the widening gulf between the rich and the poor.
A good-natured but occasionally fiery exchange saw each of the panellists put forward their cases in a format closely resembling that of the BBC’s flagship political debate programme.
Students Hawa and Hana quickly emerged as the stars of the show with their carefully considered responses to a series of complex questions.
Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin said: “This is the second time I’ve had the pleasure of taking part in the debate and the questions just get better and better – they really do put you through your paces.
“These students are genuinely politically engaged and the amount of effort, time and thought they had put into the questions shone through. To me it is a clear example of why it’s about time that 16-year-olds should have the right to decide their own futures.
“From the questions that were asked and the responses offered by the consistently excellent Hana and Hawa, it was clear that these young people have grave concerns about their futures.
“Why shouldn’t they be able to exercise their democratic right?”
Hana Yaqoob’s passionate argument in favour of votes for 16-year-olds was met with a loud cheer from the audience of year 11s – many of whom would be able to vote should the age be lowered.
“Just recently in Parliament David Liddington spoke quite vocally about how 16-year-old’s are not mature enough to vote in elections and it sparked my outrage because I’ve been vocal on this issue for quite some time now,” she said.
“The results of democratic votes shape our future and should that mean that it places a higher importance on us?
“My argument is that if a sixteen-year-old can leave school, seek full-time employment and be liable for tax then why can’t we be trusted with the vote?”
David Cooper and Julie Haigh, Co-Heads of Batley Girls’ High School, said: “We were thrilled to see such a passionate debate at Friday’s Question Time and we were so proud to see such articulate and informed comments from our students.
“This is the third Question Time panel which we’ve held at the school and we’re delighted that it’s becoming a highlight of our school calendar.”