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Talented teens win trophy for their persuasive points

From left, Guy Opperman MP, winning students Harriet Barrett and Matthew Ross, Jackie Stevenson, Egger HR manager, and Ben Houchen, prospective MEP candidate who helped judge on the night.

From left, Guy Opperman MP, winning students Harriet Barrett and Matthew Ross, Jackie Stevenson, Egger HR manager, and Ben Houchen, prospective MEP candidate who helped judge on the night.

Two Ponteland High School sixth formers displayed excellent public speaking skills to come out on top in a debating competition.

Brainchild of Guy Opperman MP, the schools’ Parliamentary debating contest saw Harriet Barrett and Matthew Ross compete against students from Haydon Bridge, Prudhoe and Hexham to win a chipboard trophy.

Based on House of Commons guidelines, the four teams debated a motion on whether the voting age should be lowered to 16 and after a split judging panel, Harriet and Matthew were victorious.

Mr Opperman, whose constituency includes Ponteland, said: “I am delighted to have brought all the four high schools together for the first ever Northumberland Schools Parliamentary debate.

“The standard was outstanding and I congratulate all the teams and thank the schools for taking part. It is so important that young people challenge and discuss the latest topics and what better way than through a debate like this.

“I hope to run an even bigger event next year.”

The unusual choice of material for the trophy came courtesy of sponsor Egger UK’s chipboard factory.

The company’s HR manager Jackie Stevenson, who was on the judging panel along with Mr Opperman and prospective MEP Ben Houchen, said: “The quality of the public speaking and arguments presented was far higher than I had expected.

“I found the event really interesting and worthwhile and we are proud to have been involved. The ability to be able to discuss the pros and cons of a subject in an articulate manner are skills that are very much in demand in the world of work.

“We run a very successful apprenticeship scheme and employ graduates in a number of disciplines, particularly science and engineering subjects. We are also keen to offer summer jobs to students as well as work and study placements.”

She was accompanied by Catherine Frey, a former pupil of Ponteland High School and now an Egger employee, who has just completed her Higher Apprenticeship in Business and Administration at the firm.

 

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