Sixth form students from Tonbridge Grammar School challenge MEP’s in Brussels ahead of the European elections.
On 31st March, twenty Tonbridge Grammar School students were the guests of Richard Ashworth, Member of the European Parliament for the SE, 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 a packed stay and with the EU debate in the UK hotting up, the students met and challenged several M.E.P.s about their view of EU politics and presentations were given on a wide range of perspectives on the EU. Marta Andreasen M.E.P addressed the students over dinner and Richard Ashworth and Dan Hannan M.E.P also took time out of their busy schedules to speak and debate with the students.
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.”
Another agreed, “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 posted: “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 following day Marta Andreasen wrote “I have spoken to many students and found this group to be smart, well educated and respectful, so much so that I would wish to think they represent the generation that will make the UK return to its predominant place in the world”.
The visit also had a profound effect on the students, with several expressing an interest to work as an intern 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 realized that it is much more complicated than that (and honestly I don't know yet whether we should stay in or not!)”