Bedford School students have long been debating the issues surrounding the EU Referendum and this week engaged in a separate event each day as Thursday’s national vote approaches.

Calvin Fang has done sterling work as President of the Current Affairs Society and in a packed A21 on Monday 20 June 2016 he hosted ‘A Discussion on Brexit: Europe, Them or Us?’ Calvin invited two speakers, former Chairman of Bedford and Kempston Conservative Association Mr John Guthrie for ‘Remain’, and Chairman of UKIP Mid Bedfordshire Mr Johnny Shilton for ‘Leave’. Mr Guthrie encouraged us to take a historical perspective and delivered a nuanced argument focused on Britain enjoying the best of both worlds, benefitting from the common market but operating outside of the single currency. His summation invited us to avoid extreme or one-sided positions but to consider the balance of risk and make a decision based on the weight of evidence and informed opinion. Mr Shilton replied with an argument built around the EU’s rate of growth in comparison to other parts of the world, and called for a return of sovereignty and control to Britain and away from Europe. In response to some tough questioning he disassociated himself from much of the rhetoric of the ‘Leave’ campaign and each candidate condemned excesses on both sides. Mr Guthrie gave us a much more ambitious and expansive view of the debate than many in the official ‘Remain’ campaign and Mr Shilton was also at pains to point out that the ‘Leave’ camp contains many shades of opinion. Some excellent questions came from a number of boys and covered everything from Turkey and Russia to the political ambitions of Boris Johnson. Calvin had asked audience members to vote at the start of the evening and then collected a second set of voting slips at the end. Several began undecided but moved over to Remain, the numbers moving from 15-7 in favour of Remain at the start to 23-6 in favour of Remain by the end. Calvin also invited a vote on which issues were the most important to participants, and ‘the economy’ emerged as the key issue by a large margin. Mr Guthrie was subsequently presented with a trophy for his efforts!

On Tuesday lunchtime several Government & Politics students attended an EU Question Time with Richard Fuller MP and assorted guest speakers from local political parties, hosted by Bedford Modern School. Questions ranged around the familiar themes of the economy and jobs, sovereignty, rights issues and immigration. Adopting the BBC Question Time format, pre-agreed questions were taken from the floor and then a show of hands was called for, resulting in a resounding win for ‘Remain’.

Students from lower down the School were then able to participate in Wednesday’s School Referendum. Boys from the Fourth, Remove and Sixth Form voted throughout the day, the ballot box manned expertly by Election Officers Calvin Fang, Alex Veshchugin and Simon Huang, with Josh Nethersole challenging anyone who felt like it to a debate.

The results were as follows:

Year Group Remain (votes) Leave (votes) Overall
Fourth & Remove Form 48 28 63.1% REMAIN
Sixth Form 61 23 72.6% REMAIN
TOTAL 109 51 68.1% REMAIN

So, on all three occasions and on a fairly consistent basis across all Upper School year groups, we have seen a vote for ‘Remain’. We wait to see whether the British voting public will follow suit.

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