A Rhondda Cynon Taf School has been crowned winner of a prestigious RSPCA Cymru debating competition.
Bryn Celynnog, from Beddau, were chosen by judges as the winner of Friday’s finale (21 June), which took place at the National Assembly for Wales.
Schools from Cardiff, Bangor, Milford Haven, Llanelli and Rhydyfelin also took part, having won through regional heats held across Wales.
The ‘Great Debate’ concept is an integral part of the RSPCA’s Generation Kind initiative.
Generation Kind is a set of ambitious, innovative projects aiming to nurture and encourage the values of kindness and compassion towards all animals within children and young people – of which the ‘Great Debate’ is only one part.
Other ‘Generation Kind’ schemes include those aimed at children in care, deprived areas and youth offenders, though the ‘Great Debate’ is open to all schools across the country.
Schools debated the issue of who holds responsibility for animal welfare in Wales – discussing the role which the general public, veterinarians, local authorities, the RSPCA, the Welsh Government and the police all play in protecting the nation’s animals.
The Cathedral School (Cardiff), Cardinal Newman (Rhydyfelin), Milford Haven School, Ysgol Coedcae (Llanelli) and Ysgol Tryfan (Bangor) all took part.
Debates took place in the historic surroundings of Siambr Hywel, the Assembly’s old debating chamber, and a room in which some of the earliest devolved decisions related to animal welfare were made by Assembly Members.
Each school team also nominated media officers to live-tweet debates, utilising the hashtag #RSPCAGD19, learning how journalists keep the public informed about events.
Awards were also given to individual pupils who demonstrated outstanding performance at the finale at the Assembly – with pupils from schools based in Cardiff, Rhydyfelin, Beddau and Llanelli picking up trophies. These were:
Harrie Ritchie (Cathedral School) – Future Politician
Daniel Boswell (Cardinal Newman) – Future Campaigner
Finlay Baker (Bryn Celynnog) – Future Journalist
April Coslett (Ysgol Coedcae) – Animal Welfare Champion
The event was kindly sponsored by Lesley Griffiths AM, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs; while a senior Welsh Government official, head of animal welfare Irene Allen, attended to meet the participants and feedback their contributions.
Bryn Celynnog’s triumph follows victory for Leeds-based Dixons Trinity Chapeltown in England’s finale, held at Westminster last week (17 June).
RSPCA head of prevention & education David Allen said: “As the National Assembly for Wales marks 20 years of devolution, RSPCA Cymru was delighted to present school children with this opportunity to debate in the institution’s original debating chamber.
“The schoolchildren in attendance were inspiring, and debated with style and panache the key issue of who in Wales holds ultimate responsibility for animal welfare.
“Generation Kind is all about inspiring young people to be compassionate, empathetic and understand our fellow living creatures. Those taking part seized all the opportunities on offer – from first-class debating, to acting as budding student journalists.
“It was particularly rewarding to see how the children had progressed since the heats – growing in confidence, and having taken fresh approaches to research and communicating their ideas.
“RSPCA Cymru congratulates Bryn Celynnog for their success – the Great Debate champions of 2019. They debated the role the Police play in furthering animal welfare - and clearly had a forensic understanding of where that emergency service is, and isn’t, at the helm for animals in need.
“We hope the scheme will leave a lasting legacy for participants, with the individual award winners too displaying the skills the Great Debate aims to develop – namely communication, campaigning and compassion.”
The students also enjoyed a tour of the National Assembly for Wales, as the Senedd marks celebrations of 20 years since the onset of devolution.
Sarah Vining, RSPCA Cymru events manager, added: “We’re really grateful to the Assembly for putting on the tour – which was a superb addition to the day; bringing to life Wales’ decision-making process as the Welsh Parliament marks 20 years of devolved decision-making from Cardiff Bay.
“Great Debate events are all about developing skills in citizenship, and aim to open the eyes of the next generation of animal ambassadors as to how decisions impacting our fellow living creatures are made, and what they can do to influence those decisions.
“Their Great Debate journey has seen them debate at town halls, Council chambers and Wales’ Parliament.”
More information about Generation Kind is available on the RSPCA’s website. If you wish to support the RSPCA and these initiatives, you can donate online. The RSPCA is a charity and relies on public donations.