Big Issues day took place on the 26th of November during which S5 and S6 students were made to think about and research issues that are prominent at his moment in time and how they are affecting us here in the Scottish Borders. Throughout the day, they researched and debated one of four issues:

– Should GM Crops be grown or used in the UK?
– Should we allow the genetic manipulation of embryos?
– Should the UK be accepting all refugees?
– Should the UK intervene in the war in Syria?

The day was organised by the Big Issues committee, which consisted of myself, Euan (S6), Jo (S6) and Dominic (S5), with the help of some of the teachers such as Miss Barker and Miss Giles. Overall, I found the day to have been very successful, as many of the people I talked to during the day felt that they now appreciated the issues more than they had done before.

The pupils were split into 16 groups, 4 researching each issue. By the end of the day, they had to give a presentation about their issue. They were encouraged to use their research skills to the best of their ability through the use of multiple different sources of information. One of these was a wide selection of speakers from a variety of organisations. The speakers that very kindly gave up their time to help us were:
– John Lamont, local Conservative MSP
– Reverend Campbell, School chaplain and Church of Scotland minister
– Rory Bannerman, Immigration judge
– Alastair Cameron, STEMNET Ambassador
– David Scott, from Nil by Mouth, a charity that tackles prejudice in the UK
– Mr P. Lee, biology teacher
– Our own Euan, former RMPS student

As well as the speakers’ presentations, the students were also given the opportunity to interview the speakers. These interviews also seem to have been very useful to the students, with the winning presentation containing many quotations from these meetings.

Throughout the day, all the speakers gave presentations about one or more of the issues, from which the pupils could gather information to put into their presentations. On speaking to some of the participants on the day, the speakers have been a very successful and useful source of information and we hope that, in subsequent years, the Big Issues Day committees can invite the speakers back to help us debate new issues.

After lunch, a winning presentation from each topic was selected. These presentations were then presented at the end of the day to the rest of S5 and S6. All the participating pupils must be commended on their presentations as they all contained lots of information, and came in a variety of formats, such as PowerPoints, videos and posters, which helped everyone to learn something new about every issue.

This year’s winning presentation was chosen by a collective vote by the committee and the social subjects teachers. The winning presentation was from the GM Crops topic and was a very informative, easy to understand and intriguing presentation by a group headed by Caitlin (S6). However, the competition was fierce and in a close second place came a strong Genetic Manipulation of Embryos presentation from a group headed by S6s Michael and Caitlin. It took up a very good format with audience involvement and clips from an interview with Rev. Campbell and was very informative. All presentations were fantastic and a lot of hard work was put in over the day.

In the coming week, the committee will look more in depth into how the day went, with the view that we can pass on what we have learnt to next year’s committee. As part of that, we will be putting a questionnaire around all of the students that took part, so that they can tell us exactly what they did and did not like.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the speakers for their time and expertise, and to let them know that their contributions were greatly appreciated. I would also like to thank the other members of the committee, as well as the teachers that helped us on the day, for their hard-work and unlimited patience.