“Big, Big Referendum Debate”

Nearly fifty first time voters from Charleston Academy headed down to Glasgow to the Big, Big Debate held at the impressive SSE Hydro for BBC Scotland. Despite the long drive down and nearly as long a wait in the arena for the debate to start, our students had an engaging, thought-provoking experience. As well as participating in the debate, some getting to ask questions, or just participating as part of the wider audience of nearly 8,000 16 and 17 year old first time voters, our students also got to see first hand the intricacies of a live studio recording.

We were delighted to meet up with former Head Boy Calum MacDonald who is completing his University Degree while also working at the BBC. Calum was one of the founders of our own Right Enough Radio and previously interviewed Danny Alexander in school. Calum was able to give us an insight into a lot of what was happening behind the scenes, how the questions were selected, and who would get to ask them.

The debate was recorded live in the late afternoon and broadcast on BBC1 that evening (available until midnight on 18 September). Unfortunately Kirsten Law wasn’t selected to ask her question, although she did during rehearsals. Well done to Aaron Duncan-MacLeod who did get an opportunity to put his question across though. All students were encouraged to make live contributions via twitter #bigbigdebate which was the number 1 trending topic on twitter that day.

As schools are unable, for legal reasons, to hold mock elections, debates or discussions during the referendum campaign period this was a fantastic opportunity for many of our S5/6 to demonstrate how engaged, articulate and well informed they are about the referendum.

The impressive turnout of our pupils in full school dress code, their in-depth understanding of the issues and their passionate and well informed discussions, debates (and arguments!) with each other left all of the staff accompanying them that day very much re-assured that whatever the result of the referendum campaign, the future of Scotland is in very safe hands. They were excellent ambassadors for the school, for the Highlands and for Scotland and made all of us very proud.

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