Sunderland academy pupils grill election candidates

ELECTION DEBATE: St Aidan's Catholic Academy was the setting for an election debate.

ELECTION DEBATE: St Aidan's Catholic Academy was the setting for an election debate.

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PUPILS at a Sunderland school got the chance to grill candidates for a Sunderland parliamentary seat ahead of this May’s General Election.

Pupils from St Anthony’s and St Aidan’s Catholic Academies in the city spoke to representatives from the Conservative Party, Labour, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the Green Party, as part of the event organised by ITV Tyne Tees.

What a terrific debate – the school was the perfect venue for some candid straight-talking and questioning.

Ian Payne, ITV News

Camera crews took over St Aidan’s school hall, adding to the excitement of the debate.

The topics being debated centred around the economy, immigration, education and tuition fees, as well as political engagement in young people.

Ian Payne, who presents ITV News Tyne Tees, and who hosted the event, said: “What a terrific debate – the school was the perfect venue for some candid straight-talking and questioning – akin to ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’.

“These youngsters certainly don’t just blindly accept politicians’ claims.

“We heard some really strong opinions and evidence of some deep divisions, but also some surprising common ground – we even had a cross-party handshake that would represent a staggering coalition.”

Polling research suggests young people are less likely to vote than older people.

There are calls to reduce the voting age to 16 or 17, and in schools the new National Curriculum now has greater emphasis on teaching children how politics works in the UK.

The debate airs at 6pm tonight on ITV Tyne Tees.