I spent an excellent couple of hours at King’s School in Ottery St Mary yesterday at a political speed dating event organised by Head of PSHE, Jo Elliott, and EDDC Democratic Services officer, Amanda Coombs.
Nine councillors from Ottery Town Council, East Devon District Council and Devon County Council took part, along with about 90 students from Year 11.
The students were grouped around tables with one empty chair per table for a councillor to join them.
The rules were explained. A claxon would sound to kick off the ‘speed dating’ session, during which students would fire questions at us, and then it would sound again after three minutes and we would move to the next table.
This last year has been a period of extraordinary political turbulence and the students were eager to quiz us on a wide range of issues, including Brexit and Trump … both topics causing great concern. Brexit, in particular, has deeply worried many of them and there was a very strong feeling that, had they had the vote, the result would have been very different.
Questions posed ranged across a number of topics, including:
- Why did you become a councillor?
- What is your greatest achievement as councillor?
- Do you think 16-year-olds should be entitled to vote?
- What is your view of President Trump?
- What does the Council do to provide facilities for young people?
- Do you think Article 50 should be invoked?
- What will happen after Brexit?
One interesting discussion, cut short because the claxon sounded at the end of three minutes, was the issue of public transport and, in particular, the train service. Exeter is the go-to place to meet up with your friends and do a bit of shopping at the weekend, and 16-year-olds are reliant on the train, bus or, if you’re lucky, Dad’s Taxi Service. They are desperate for the train service to be improved from a two-hourly to a half-hourly service, but for this we are reliant on the installation of a passing loop … and that’s expensive. Two students asked if they could come and address a Council meeting when train infrastructure is on the agenda.
Once each table had had a chance to quiz every councillor, the students were asked to vote for the candidate they would elect if they were eligible to vote.
And the winner was Cllr Claire Wright!