The environment is the issue that worries Sunderland schoolchildren the most debate hears as climate crisis protests continue
More than 100 youngsters from across Wearside made their voices heard on the issues that matter to them at a debate in Sunderland.
The annual State of the City debate, organised by Sunderland Youth Council (SYC), saw children and young people from the city’s schools and Sunderland College gather to discuss five key issues at the city’s Civic Centre.
Sunderland Youth Council is made up of 15 young people aged 11 to 18, and is supported by Together for Children, the organisation that provides children’s services on behalf of Sunderland City Council.
The debate saw those gathered discuss their concerns regarding the environment, knife crime, mental health, tackling hate crime and votes at age 16.
It followed the national Make Your Mark ballot, which this year saw a record 10,402 votes cast by Sunderland youngsters, with the top scoring issues setting the agenda for the debate.
The environment was the key concern for the children, attracting 2,835 votes – the highest number of votes.
In the debate young people passionately expressed their views and voted to make protecting the environment the priority SYC topic for the year ahead.
Youngsters expressed opinions on subjects ranging from plastic bag charges, veganism and renewable sources to the importance of learning about climate change in school.
Jill Colbert, Chief Executive at Together for Children, said: “Enabling young people to have a voice about services that affect them is crucial.
“We’re grateful to the Essen delegation for sharing their experiences.
“This was a fantastic debate.
“The young people were confident and their enthusiasm leaves me in no doubt that, with support of partner agencies, we will develop a strong approach to the issue of environment in Sunderland.”
To mark Sunderland’s 70 years of twinning with Essen in Germany, a delegation from Essen, including its Lord Mayor Thomas Kufen, were welcomed by the youngsters and joined the Mayor of Sunderland to observe the debate.
Sunderland Mayor Coun David Snowdon said: “It has been a really interesting debate with some very logical views.”
Following the debate members of the YouthStrike4ClimateSunderland and Parents For Future Sunderland took part in a climate strike demonstration, along with students and the Environmental Society of Sunderland University.
It is the Parents For Future Sunderland’s fifth climate strike in Sunderland and aimed to raise awareness of the issue of climate change and call on those in positions of power to take the necessary steps to tackle the climate crisis.
The Chair of Parent Future Sunderland, Graeme Jobes, organised the Sunderland protest once again.
He said: “We want leaders to tell the truth about climate change and we want to put the climate crisis at the core of the school curriculum and at the core of everything we do from now.
"We are delighted with the response form the public and the college.”
Among those taking part in the strike action were Angela Howson, 12 and Luke Jobes, nine, who said they had been inspired by young climate activist Greta Thunberg.
The group staged a demonstration outside of Sunderland Civic Centre in solidarity with the youngsters discussing environmental issues in a Sunderland Youth Council debate.
The protest then moved to the Sunderland Interchange and the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens and saw participants hand out leaflets at Sunderland College.