Children in Year 6 visited Witney Council Chamber on Thursday 12 May for an unusual debate.
At the invite of West Oxfordshire District Council, the pupils took on the topic 'should all zoos be banned', with the motion's supporters narrowly losing to fans of zoos everywhere by 16 votes to 13. The venue for this clash of opinions was chosen by Year 6 teacher Mr O'Connor, who described the day as 'a wonderful opportunity for the children to experience how a debate takes place in a Council Chamber'.
On their arrival at the Council, Year 6 were welcomed by Chairman Cllr Norman Macrae. He explained how democratic debates take place in order to ensure that everyone wishing to speak can be heard and that time is allocated fairly for each speaker. Learning about democracy is an important part of the PSHE syllabus covered at Cokethorpe and each of the 29 pupils had to prepare their arguments in advance, taking turns to speak on the topic. Cllr MacRae was pleased to have the opportunity to host pupils at the Chamber; 'it’s an ideal way of learning more about local democracy. Today’s session was very lively and I thoroughly enjoyed chairing it.'
Cokethorpe is not far from the Cotswolds Wildlife Park, and many of the children will have visited the zoo on a family day out. Zoos in general have been in the news recently, with action man and conservationist, Steve Backshall, coming out in support; he described his conversion to zoos as inspired to wildlife enthuasiast Terry Nutkins; 'Terry gave his whole life to the good of wildlife... but grew up in the middle of London, to parents who knew and cared nothing for nature. He gained all of his inspiration from climbing over the wall into London Zoo and gazing at the elephants.'