SCHOOLAGE children have been learning how to debate at a number of free citizenship sessions run by East Hampshire District Council (EHDC).

More than 600 young people from 16 schools attended the sessions, which were designed to introduce them to the power of political debate.

Among them were pupils of Andrew’s Endowed Primary School in Holybourne, Chawton Primary School, St Lawrence Primary School, St Mary’s Bentworth Primary School, St Lawrence Primary, The Butts Primary, and Wootey Junior School in Alton, as well as Greatham Primary School, St Matthew’s Primary School at Blackmoor, The Holme Primary School at Headley and Weyford Junior School.

One of the most popular activities at the sessions was the debate, and this year saw the children picking the topic for the first time.

A straw poll was used to divide the class and a mock vote with ballot slips and a ballot box was used after the debate to discover whether opinions had changed once both sides of the argument had been considered.

Topics debated included; wearing a school uniform, leaving the EU, abolishing the Monarchy, allowing gadgets in school, banning smoking and lowering the voting age.

Students often changed their minds after the debates, but this did not happen after a debate on the EU referendum.

The final part of the sessions involved children raising issues they had identified within their school and community, which were then fed back to the school leadership team and ward councillor.

Julie Butler, EHDC’s portfolio holder for customer relations, said: “EHDC is committed to involving children and young people in its decision-making processes and these sessions are an invaluable way of ensuring children’s voices are heard by those who are representing them.”