PCC hosts OPCC’s first ever Schools Debating competition in Bedfordshire


The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC), hosted their first-ever Schools Debating competition this week.

During his campaign the Police and Crime Commissioner, Festus Akinbusoye pledged to run an annual debating competition.

Young people aged 15-18 years old were invited from Bedfordshire schools to take part in the competition, proudly sponsored by Willmott-Dixon, a national construction company who have recently developed the new custody block for Bedfordshire Police.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Festus Akinbusoye said, “I wanted to give young people the opportunity to develop their confidence in public speaking and broaden their knowledge of topical issues by encouraging participation in Parliamentary-style debating.

“The event was a huge success.  I was incredibly impressed by the professionalism, passion, and most of all knowledge of all the students.  Honestly, some of these topics, I had a clear opinion on.  Now, due to the quality of knowledge and extensive research that has gone into the debates by the students, I have been swayed”.

He further commented “While educational value is important, I want this to be a fun and enjoyable experience for all participants. Feedback so far has exceeded my expectations and I am looking forward to round two.

“Thank you to all schools and students that participated, – Chiltern Academy, Mark Rutherford, Sharnbrook Academy, Bedford Modern, Cardinal Newman Catholic School, Redborne Upper School and Icknield High School. It was very close!

“Congratulations to the winning schools from each round – Bedford Modern, Cardinal Newman Catholic School, Redborne Upper School and Icknield High School”.

The OPCC briefed all schools in advance on how the debate would run.  The schools took part in round one, with two students per school on each team competing in four rounds.

The subject for each round was chosen by the Commissioner and provided to the schools in advance, the perspective (whether for or against), was also chosen by the Commissioner, whose role in the event was the ‘speaker’, like in the House of Commons.

The topics were:

  • The success of the Covid vaccination programme is clear evidence for Covid passports.
  • Electric scooters are a menace to society and should be banned.
  • More Stop and Search is the best way to tackle knife crime in Bedfordshire.
  • Despite the findings of the McPherson Report, Britain’s policing establishment is still institutionally racist.
  • The OPCC are hosting three rounds in total with the second round being an online event and the final will take place at the end of the month at Bedford Magistrates Court.

Miss Ruth McLean, Deputy Head of Sixth Form at Cardinal Newman Catholic School said, “I was really impressed with the professional and well-informed speeches from the students.

“It was invigorating to see young people so enthused by the topics being debated”.

Pauline Stewart JP, Director and Businesswoman judged the competition said: “I was delighted to be invited as a judge for the OPCC’s Schools Parliamentary Debating Competition. Each school demonstrated excellent capability by researching the subject matter and then delivering factual and relevant points of view.

“The students deliberated their findings and finished by summarising their thoughts.  A great initiative to encourage and promote young people who have a view and want to speak out about it (appropriately).  I found myself really wanting to share thoughts with all of the students who were engaging, passionate and knowledgeable”.

Dr Tahir Mehmood who also judged the competition said, “I was very fortunate to have had an opportunity to observe the young debaters and make a judgement on their speeches.

“They were passionate about the chosen topic, confident, persuasive and had created a great learning atmosphere. It was clear that all participants had carried out research and contemplated their arguments with reasoning.

“I was very impressed with the level of their public speaking skills. It was an educational activity for me and amazing to see how these students appeared as critical thinkers and maintained an element of composure and poise”.

All schools taking part receive a certificate from the Police and Crime Commissioner.  The winning school takes home The Commissioner’s Cup and £500 for their school.