Question time with local PPCs
Recently Sixth Form students from the local area gathered together at Harrogate Grammar School to put questions to the Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) for Harrogate and Knaresborough. It was the first time in the campaign all prospective candidates came together to face a grilling at a hustings event with questions posed by students from Harrogate Grammar School, Rossett, St Aidan’s and St John Fisher Associated Sixth Form.
The five candidates: Andrew Jones (Conservative); Helen Flynn (Liberal Democrat); Jan Williams (Labour); Shan Oakes (Green) and David Simister (UKIP) had the unique prospect of targeting a key age group of 16-18 year olds. The husting gave students an exclusive chance to target the candidates on issues that directly concern them now and areas of interest for the future. It allowed those unable to vote in the forthcoming election to witness democracy on their ‘doorstep’ and evaluate the benefits and arguments for lowering the voting age to 16.
Candidates faced questions on tuition fees, child protection, housing, road works, cycling, HS2, immigration, fracking and voting reform. Each candidate had the opportunity to give their personal and party stance on these issues for what became a lively debate at moments. One of the questions on education below illustrates how valuable their responses were to the students in the audience.
How would you ensure greater fairness and equality within higher education, for example equality of funding?
Mrs Williams: “We desperately need people who may not want to go to university who have plenty to offer and these people are languishing when could be offered a vocational qualification of a high calibre”
Mrs Oakes: “Education is for the common good, for students participating and for the wider community, and we need to end tuition fees altogether. We need to support student living costs and we will reintroduce student grants. Putting young people into debt is the wrong thing to do”.
Mr Jones: “We should encourage people to stay in learning for as long as they wish. We need to have a very broad definition of what success looks like – some of it is university, some is college, some is apprenticeships”.
Mrs Flynn: “Vince Cable was really keen to boost vocational training and we have seen the introduction of technical colleges to highlight that. We’re vouchsafing education funding from cradle to college to ensure it is better than it is now and that it is spent in the best way”
Mr Simister: “There must be so many people aged 16 who want to leave education and get a job or an apprenticeship but they can’t and we are transfixed on quotas with 50 per cent going to university and that is wrong”.
Afterwards the Prospective Candidates met and had lunch with students, speaking on a one-to-one basis about their party and their policies.
Mia Gair from HGS asking a question
Andrew Jones (MP)
Robin Butler from HGS asking a question
Callum Nicol from HGS asking a question