Schools across Wales have been invited by the RSPCA to sign up to a special animal-themed debating competition in 2019 – the Great Debate.
The competition brings together pupils aged 11 to 14 to discuss and debate a host of ethical animal welfare topics – nurturing key skills in research, deliberation and communication.
RSPCA staff hope the debates will inspire school pupils to research, explore and discuss animal welfare; and learn key lessons in citizenship.
The sign-up window is now open – and schools in Wales can register their interest online via the RSPCA website.
RSPCA first launched the Great Debate in Wales in 2015 at the National Assembly for Wales. As it enters its fifth year, more regional heats across Wales are planned – with more school pupils due to take part then ever before.
In 2019, in Wales, regional heats will be held in Cardiff, Haverfordwest, Llandudno, Merthyr, Neath and Newport; ahead of a grand finale at the Assembly’s old debating chamber in Cardiff – an historic venue in Wales’ democracy.
Regional heats will also take place in England – in Birmingham, Reading and Leeds; culminating in a grand finale in London next year.
David Allen, head of education at the RSPCA, said: “We’re delighted to offer this great opportunity for schools across Wales. After four highly successful years, we look forward to 2019 where we hope the Great Debate will reach even more pupils – with heats planned for Cardiff, Haverfordwest, Llandudno, Merthyr, Neath and Newport.
“We know that young people care passionately about animals. Our research shows that about eight out of ten children consider them an important member of the family. By exploring the role of animals in society, it can throw up some really interesting views and questions.
“It’s vital that we open up the debate on animal welfare to the younger generation and it has been very interesting to see the attitudes and opinions of students; and inspiring that so many of them feel passionate about helping animals.
“From gaining confidence in from speaking in public, to constructing persuasive arguments and quickly assessing the value of opposing views, we believe that mastering the skills of debating at school has never been more important.
“The Great Debate also gives the school pupils access to political institutions central in setting animal welfare policy in England and Wales; helping them to become well-rounded citizens, with an understanding of how they can affect change on a national level.”
RSPCA’s Great Debate is part of an exciting new programme the charity has launched – Generation Kind. The scheme is a series of nine projects working with school children, youngsters in care and young people who have faced challenging starts to life.
The schemes work with children to teach them the importance of treating animals with kindness and respect for animals. They are being rolled out across England and Wales with the goal of reaching two million children by 2030.
Schools that attended the Grand Final in 2018 were Ysgol Plasmawr (Cardiff), Pembroke School (Pembrokeshire), Builth Wells High (Powys), Cardiff High (Cardiff), Ysgol Bryn Tawe (Swansea) and Ysgol Rhydywaun (Rhondda Cynon Taf).
Following the 2018 Cardiff debate finale, an RSPCA-themed quiz was hosted by radio DJ Matt Lissack, while pupils also enjoyed a tour of the Senedd. RSPCA chief inspector Elaine Spence also fielded questions from schools in attendance about the work of RSPCA officers on the frontline. Four pupils were also recognised with awards for Future Campaigner, Future Politician, Future Journalist and Animal Welfare Champion. Meanwhile, Bryn Tawe school were chosen as the best performing school on the day.
In 2019, school pupils will again have the chance to win a series of awards as part of the Great Debate, while school media officers will also work to capture the story of proceedings, and promote the work of their peers.
Mr Allen added: “The RSPCA is already looking forward to next year’s heats across Wales, and the grand finale in Cardiff. We can’t wait to hear the arguments and interesting topics we know the pupils from across Wales will be discussing.”
Additional information on the RSPCA’s Generation Kind scheme is available online.