Teenagers from 30 secondary schools and colleges across England jumped at the chance to air their views about two key issues facing the European Union.
The youngsters were all taking part in a mock council of the EU, held at the Cabinet Office in Westminster last week and attended by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.
Youth unemployment and air quality were the themes of the debate, which was organised by the British Council and the European Commission as part of the EU’s Comenius programme.
Mr Clegg, himself a former MEP, welcomed the students, chaired the start of the session on youth unemployment and listened to some of the opening speeches.
He described the event as “a fantastic opportunity” and added: “It’s important to get students and young people talking about the issues that have an impact on their lives; from the jobs opportunities they have to the quality of air they breathe, their voice and contribution matters.”
Each school represented either the European Commission, the General Secretariat of the Council or one of the 28 EU member states. As well as developing their negotiating, debating and diplomacy skills, the students also gained an insight into the EU’s decision-making process.
Andy McKinney, who teaches PE at Wirral Grammar School for Boys and organises the school’s Comenius activities, accompanied two year 12 pupils to the event. James Evans and Jason Pilkington, who are both interested in politics as a career, represented the UK at the debates.
“They said it was the best day of their lives,” said Mr McKinney. “Taking part was a massive boost for their confidence and a fantastic experience. They had done a lot of preparation and research beforehand, including talking to one of our local MPs, Esther McVey.”
Other pupils taking part included George Garnett and Felix Vardag-Hunter, who are both lower sixth pupils at Winchester College and represented the European Commission.
“It was absolutely terrific for both of them,” said Dr David Ceiriog-Hughes, who teaches French, German and general studies. “This event is great for pupils’ development. It builds their self-confidence, enhances their debating skills and teaches them to listen and build a coherent argument.”
For more information, see www.britishcouncil.org/comenius-mock-council-2025 CAPTION: Political taster: Students taking part in the Mock EU Council were joined by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg (Photos: Frank Noon)