Schools from Birmingham, Reading and Leeds have qualified for the finale of a prestigious debating competition, to take place at Westminster’s Church House.
The RSPCA has been hosting Great Debate events, with school children debating a host of animal welfare topics at “centres of citizenship and democracy” across England.
15 teams from ten schools have competed in three England heats – with six schools winning through and reaching June’s final.
Debates aim to inspire school pupils to research, explore and discuss animal welfare and learn key lessons in citizenship. Two schools qualified from each of the heats – and the successful schools were:
King Edward VI Five Ways School, Birmingham
Harborne Academy, Birmingham
Highdown School, Reading
Reading Girls School, Reading
Dixons Trinity Chapeltown, Leeds
Roundhay School, Leeds
The schools debated a range of topics – including the impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union to animals, breed-specific legislation, the keeping of primates as pets, an NHS for animals and animal welfare in education.
Pupils taking part also learned more about the RSPCA and animal welfare in England, with an interactive quiz – utilising voting technology, and providing further lessons in citizenship and democracy.
Schools appointed media officers, who had the chance to nurture their own journalistic skills in the field of animal welfare, supporting their classmates and informing the public about the debate by live-tweeting and reporting on proceedings.
Heats took place at decision-making hubs across England – at Reading Civic Offices, Leeds Civic Hall and at Birmingham City Council; chosen for the role they play in making key decisions about the lives of young people, animals and the wider local community.
The Great Debate events form part of the RSPCA’s flagship Generation Kind initiative – a set of ambitious, innovative projects that aim to nurture and encourage the values of kindness and compassion towards all animals within children and young people.
RSPCA first launched the Great Debate in Wales in 2015 at the National Assembly for Wales. Since then, the scheme has expanded into England – and more pupils have taken part in 2019 than ever before.
Heats have also taken place across Wales – in Cardiff, Port Talbot, Llandudno, Haverfordwest and Merthyr – with a finale for Wales’ schools due to take place in Cardiff later this year, too.
Sarah Vining, RSPCA events manager, said: “The RSPCA is delighted to have hosted Great Debate events in England, giving young people the opportunity to develop their debating skills and learn about animal welfare at centres of citizenship and democracy.
“The standard of debating was exceptionally high – with the passion, interest and enthusiasm the young people have for animal welfare clear to see. That’s why the Great Debate programme is such an important part of our new Generation Kind initiative.
“Huge congratulations must go to Birmingham’s King Edward VI Five Ways School and Harborne Academy, Reading’s Highdown School and Reading Girls School, Leeds’ Dixons Trinity Chapeltown and Leeds’ Roundhay School, who will now participate in the grand finale in London.
“From developing empathy and compassion, encouraging greater understanding of animal welfare, and nurturing skills in public speaking, negotiating and in journalism, we hope these events will leave a lasting legacy to all attendees.
“England’s Great Debate grand final takes place at Church House – just a stone’s throw from the Houses of Parliament, a venue which has played such an important role both in setting animal welfare laws for the country. School pupils will this time debate whose responsibility animal welfare is, and we cannot wait to hear more inspirational contributions from the animal ambassadors of the future.”
Additional information on the RSPCA’s Generation Kind scheme is available online.