On 31st March, twenty Tonbridge Grammar School students were the guests of Richard Ashworth M.E.P for a two-day visit to the EU Parliament in Brussels. The 17-year-old, lower sixth students had expressed an interest in learning more about European politics and so a trip was organised for them to visit the three main institutions of EU government: the Parliament, the Council and the Commission. During their packed visit they were able to meet several M.E.P.s and ask them questions about their view of EU politics. They also listened to presentations from a wide range of perspectives on the EU which was particularly appreciated. One student said afterwards,
“I really enjoyed hearing different political perspectives which enabled me to form in-depth personal views. Meeting the MEPs was a real highlight as it gave us a chance to ask questions and debate in an informal setting.”
“I think a very positive experience was getting to meet MEPs with completely opposing views, so that we got to see both sides of the argument.”
Everyone the group met was very impressed with their maturity and engagement in politics. Richard Ashworth immediately tweeted,
“This morning I had the pleasure of welcoming Tonbridge Grammar School to Brussels and the European Parliament. I was very impressed with their interest in Europe and their insightful questions."
The visit had a profound effect on the students, with several expressing an interest in working as interns in Brussels and everyone feeling more engaged with politics in general. One student commented the day after returning,
“The best thing for me was the amount I learnt. This evening I've been watching the live EU in/out debate on BBC 2 and I feel that I can actually understand and be part of it which I wouldn't have been able to do before the trip.”
Finally, while it was an extremely positive experience there remains a lot more thinking to do. A student observed,
“It was a really useful and interesting trip I learnt an incredible amount. Before the trip I thought that we should get out of the EU but now I have realised that it is much more complicated than that and honestly I don't know yet whether we should stay in or not!"