On Friday, I hosted my seventh annual Cherwell Democracy Challenge to mark the end of UK parliament week 2021. It is a day I always look forward to. With last year’s challenge taking place virtually, it was wonderful to have students back in-person for a lively day of debating.
It is a fantastic way for local students to take part in engaging debate. The day was attended by local secondary schools including North Oxfordshire Academy, Sibford School, The Warriner and The Bicester School, who competed against one another in two rounds for a spot in the final round. Rounds one and two saw teams debate environmental protests and artificial intelligence. After a very competitive morning of debating, and much deliberation between the panel of judges, North Oxfordshire Academy and Sibford School reached the final.
I’m always impressed by local pupils’ awareness of issues and standard of arguments; this year was no different. A well fought final debating a motion on nuclear weaponry saw Sibford School walk away as this year’s champions, with an excellent team performance. Congratulations to Tom, Joe, Julia and George who supported one another from start to finish.
While the finalists were preparing, the other students had an opportunity to ask the judges questions and learn more about their day-to-day lives. I would like to thank all of the judges for taking time out of their busy schedules to attend. It was a truly fun day and was very encouraging to see so many young people engaged. All students articulated their points with such confidence and I was impressed with how much they knew. I hope the pupils got as much out of the day as I did. I hope they enjoyed the experience as much as possible. It was truly humbling to see so many young people use their voice in such a positive and empowering way.
Judges included Lord Boswell of Aynho, Deputy Leader of Cherwell District Council Ian Corkin, Cherwell District Councillor Hugo Brown, Bicester Village Community Relations Director Miranda Markham, Bicester Town Councillor Zoe McClernon, and Banbury Guardian journalist Matt Elofson.