THE average age in Bournemouth’s council chamber got dramatically younger for a day of debates.

Students from secondary schools across the town came together to argue issues of the day as part of Parliament Week.

They held two debates in the chamber at Bournemouth Town Hall, with the mayor, Cllr Eddie Coope, chairing.

And they defeated a motion arguing that Article 50 – the process for leaving the European Union – should be triggered without delay.

Sam Acton, Parliament Week sponsor and director of the Southbourne business Domestic Angels, organised the event.

She said: “The first debate was on referendums and their value. Then there were six breakout sessions facilitated by Parliament Week sponsors.

“The second debate was on whether we should trigger Article 50 as soon as possible or delay.

“I was completely overwhelmed when the first students got up to speak. They were so eloquent, so well informed and coherent. They had strong arguments. It nearly reduced me to tears,” she added.

“They weren’t afraid to engage the politicians.”

Sponsors included council contractor Mouchel, whose divisional manager Peter Wake was among the facilitators.

“I was extremely impressed that they were almost wise beyond their years in terms of the confidence they have to speak on a parity with their members of Parliament,” he said.

“They were so calm you would have thought you were in Parliament itself.”

Mid-Dorset and North Poole MP Michael Tomlinson said he had been impressed by the afternoon’s debate on the EU. “It’s really good to have such a wide-ranging debate but always coming back to the point in question,” he said.

“I personally think we have a positive future outside the EU despite the vote we’ve just had, but having heard the debate and having heard the passionate speakers we’ve just had, there’s no doubt in my mind that we have many future leaders in whatever roles you choose to take up.”

Cllr Nicola Greene, deputy leader of Bournemouth council, told students: “Your passion and enthusiasm and ability to hold your elected representatives to account has bene fantastic. It’s clear democracy is alive and well in Bournemouth.”

The schools represented were: Winton and Glenmoor, Bournemouth School for Girls, Avonbourne Trust, Talbot Heath, Bournemouth School, St Peter’s, Bishop of Winchester, Harewood College, Bourne Academy, Bournemouth Collegiate and Oak Academy.