‘I’m coming back to Parliament as an MP’ says winner of prestigious schools debating competition hosted by Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami at Westminster

PUBLISHED: 16:55 10 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:09 10 November 2017

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami with the overall winning pair Millie Rice and Emma Shardlow, both 16, from Sir John Lawes School in the Houses of Parliament after he invited them to a debating competition. Picture: Danny Loo

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami with the overall winning pair Millie Rice and Emma Shardlow, both 16, from Sir John Lawes School in the Houses of Parliament after he invited them to a debating competition. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2017

Two talented pupils from Sir John Laws School in Harpenden won a prestigious schools debating competition hosted by Bim Afolami MP at the Houses of Parliament this week – as a pair from Hitchin Boys’ School also picked up an honour.

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami with the winning pair Ravi Odedra and Callum Craig Hitchin Boys School in the Houses of Parliament after he invited them to a debating competition. Picture: Danny LooHitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami with the winning pair Ravi Odedra and Callum Craig Hitchin Boys School in the Houses of Parliament after he invited them to a debating competition. Picture: Danny Loo

A large number of extremely talented teens from various schools across our area passionately discussed a wide range of topics in the stunning splendour of the Palace of Westminster.

Six schools across Mr Afolami’s Hitchin and Harpenden constituency competed for the honour with the tournament split into two age categories, with one for GCSE students and one for sixth formers, with a judging panel of the chair Adrian Hawkins, head of Herts Local Enterprise Partnership, Rev Mary Fane de Salis, the well-known former Mayor of St Albans and now portfolio holder for sports, leisure and heritage at the city and district council, Annie Brewster, and this correspondent.

On the junior panel the judges were chair Alison Voyce, Terry Tyler and Teresa Heritage.

Teams were entered in each category with the panel judging a number of lively and informed public discussions.

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami with the winning pair Felix Elliott and Ethan Gray from Hitchin Boys School in the Houses of Parliament after he invited them to a debating competition. Picture: Danny LooHitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami with the winning pair Felix Elliott and Ethan Gray from Hitchin Boys School in the Houses of Parliament after he invited them to a debating competition. Picture: Danny Loo

Mr Afolmai said: “I was really impressed by the standard of debate on Thursday.

“All the students showed great skill and confidence, and I’m glad it wasn’t down to me to decide on winners! I hope they all enjoyed the experience, and I’ll be looking out for them in the future - I’m sure they’ll go far!”

Among the hotly-contested topics of discussion were arguments for an against the abolition of the monarchy to replace it with a head of state ‘This House would introduce an opt-out system for organ donation’ and ‘This House would replace the House of Lords with a fully-elected Upper Chamber.

The overall winners from Harpenden Millie Rice and Emma Shardlow, both 16, won after debating: ‘This House would force Facebook/Whats App to hand over all private messages to government upon request’.

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami with the winning pair Harry Huckle and Ethan MacRae from The Priory School in the Houses of Parliament after he invited them to a debating competition. Picture: Danny LooHitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami with the winning pair Harry Huckle and Ethan MacRae from The Priory School in the Houses of Parliament after he invited them to a debating competition. Picture: Danny Loo

The delighted pair spoke after picking up their awards.

Millie said: “It’s surreal because we both came thinking it would be a really good day out and good fun as both of us quite enjoy a debate – but we never expected to win so both of us are really thrilled.

“I was so happy and really proud to win the overall competition. I like to argue with people so it was really good fun.

“We’ve both worked so hard on this and we’ve had a couple of late nights, yes.

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami with the winning pair Emily Hughes and Alastair Holmes from Roundwood Park School in the Houses of Parliament after he invited them to a debating competition. Picture: Danny LooHitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami with the winning pair Emily Hughes and Alastair Holmes from Roundwood Park School in the Houses of Parliament after he invited them to a debating competition. Picture: Danny Loo

“Before it started we were both sitting outside thinking: ‘What have we decided to do!’”

The hard-working pair took their information from a wide range of resources and impressed with the clarity of their arguments.

Despite a grilling from the judges the duo emerged triumphant in front of Mr Afolami and the large audience in attendance at Westminster.

Emma said: “I’ve had such a good time. I’ve really enjoyed it.

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami with the winning pair Patrick King and Aké Kibona from St George's School in the Houses of Parliament after he invited them to a debating competition. Picture: Danny LooHitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami with the winning pair Patrick King and Aké Kibona from St George's School in the Houses of Parliament after he invited them to a debating competition. Picture: Danny Loo

“We didn’t expect to win. There were some amazing arguments and debates. We were in shock to win.”

Bim has been lovely. He’s been such a good host. It’s really inspiring to see someone like him who is so passionate about what he does – especially for people like Millie who hopes to become an MP one day.

Millie agreed, adding: “We really do think Bim is an excellent MP. It was great to meet him.

“It’s our first time in Parliament and it’s absolutely amazing. It’s been such a good opportunity and experience and we’d like to thank Bim for hosting everyone.”

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami with the judges and the winning pairs of pupils from schools in his constituency in the Houses of Parliament after he invited them to a debating competition. Picture: Danny LooHitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami with the judges and the winning pairs of pupils from schools in his constituency in the Houses of Parliament after he invited them to a debating competition. Picture: Danny Loo

We may well be seeing more of Millie in the future as she is interested in politics and would like to become a Member of Parliament in the future.

She added: “I would like to return here as an MP. But I’m also interested in international law and international relations.”

In a robust debate on ‘This House believes in all-female shortlists’ Callum Craig and Ravi Odedra from Hitchin Boys School beat equally passionate speakers from St George’s School Harpenden in a close contest which engaged the audience as much as the speakers and the judges.

Councillor Brewster was impressed by everyone throughout the event, saying: “I was overwhelmed by the debating ability displayed by all the school teams. “Not only had they researched and considered their topics at a very great depth, they were all able to resiliently withstand probing wider questioning. “It was a privilege to witness this young talent in such an historic setting.”

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