Royal High students to host panel event in BBC competition

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PUPILS at a city high school are just one step away from winning the right to work with David Dimbleby to produce an edition of the BBC's Question Time – but have to impress judges with their very own version first.

Royal High students have beaten off competition from hundreds of schools across the country to reach the finals of the Schools Question Time contest and are the only Scottish school left in the competition.

They will try to win over judges at an event being staged at the school on Thursday night, which will feature panellists including independent MSP Margo MacDonald, Green MSP Robin Harper and comedian Greg McHugh – aka Gary Tank Commander.

Their Question Time event will also be recorded for judges to mark against the other 14 finalists from schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

To make it to the final 15, Royal High pupils passed various challenges, including planning out their ideal Question Time panel and discussion topics and recording a five-minute film, which the pupils made on the subject of Scottish independence.

If they are one of the four winning schools selected by BBC judges, they will travel to London to work on an edition of Question Time to be aired in the summer.

Modern studies teacher Jenny Gilruth has been helping the S4 pupils since they entered the contest last October.

She said: "The kids are very excited about the prospect of working on the real Question Time.

"It's great for encouraging political literacy and greater participation in the political process and is a rally good way to get them involved."

Amongst the topics to be debated by the Royal High panel – which is also made up of Margaret Smith MSP, Scottish Youth Parliament chairman Derek Couper and S5 pupil Harmandeep Shetra – are how young people are portrayed in the media and whether the legal drinking age should be raised to 21.

An audience of around 300 pupils, teachers and parents will also get the chance to ask questions to the panel, as in the real Question Time.

The four winning schools will be announced next month and two pupils each who work behind the scenes on an edition of the long-running BBC programme.

In early May, the eight winning students will take part in a two-day workshop with the Question Time team to discuss their plans for the programme

During the preparation and broadcast of the special schools edition in July, the eight students will experience various production roles such as editor, audience producer, panel producer and online producer.

Lord Provost George Grubb said: "As a former pupil I'm extremely proud that the Royal High has done so well in this competition.

"I'm sure the school will put on a great debate on Thursday – I hope the panel are ready for some difficult questions."