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Question Time - a distinguised 'first' for RPA

posted 14 Nov 2014, 02:18 by Phil Broughton
Remember, remember the fifth of November… no, not this time because of Guy Fawkes and the gunpowder plot of 1605 but because Richmond Park Academy’s 6th formers welcomed - on this memorable date in 2014 - dozens of other 6th form students from a host of schools across the Borough. The occasion? RPA’s own version of the BBC’s iconic Question Time programme which - like its nationally respected BBC television original - presented an engaging, thought-provoking, challenging and entertaining platform for a student audience to engage in a free and frank exchange of news and views with a group of distinguished panellists.

The session was chaired by Sir Roderic Lyne, former British Ambassador to Moscow, Private Secretary to John Major and, post retirement, a member of the Chilcot enquiry. Following the tried and tested Question Time formula, he introduced his fellow panellists - award winning journalist Robert Chesshyre, local Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Robin Meltzer, Sir David Durie, former governor of Gibraltar, Julie Stephenson, Green Party campaigner and journalist and David Rankin, the current editor of the Richmond and Twickenham Times. This formidable political and media line-up were to be kept on their mettle by rigorous questioning from well prepared student inquisitors who listened, measured and challenged perceived views, with impressive gravitas, of a clutch of ‘hot topic’ world events. The student contributions reflected a total involvement in the cut and thrust of this debating opportunity.

Should 16 and l7 year olds be allowed to vote? What can one individual realistically do to limit climate change? Why does the British Government not pay ransom for kidnapped British citizens? Should England pull out of the next two World Cups - from Russia because of their Ukrainian invasion and from Qatar, a host country clouded by the possibility that FIFA was bribed to secure their bid?

Tracey O’Brien, Richmond Park Academy senior vice principal who masterminded this innovative event, was - she confessed - rather pleased, but not entirely surprised, by the students’ performance. She said: ‘It was a fantastic event. The well thought out contributions from both students and staff added to the quality of the whole proceedings and I was particularly impressed by the confidence our young people displayed in such a public arena’.

No gunpowder plotting, perhaps, on this particular November 5, but some explosive stuff, nevertheless, prompting Kallum White, an RPA 6th former, to sum up the session thus: ’QT was a complete success. It added to my knowledge of the world around us - and sparked, for me, a future involvement in politics’.