The discussion opened with a presentation outlining how Britain’s membership of the EU affects young people’s lives, especially in Liverpool. The focus was on the ways in which education and mobility are facilitated by EU programmes and funding, including school E-twinning, the EU mock council, and the Erasmus and Erasmus+ programmes. Professor Marsh described how, beyond the net economic gains of single market membership, there are significant cultural and intellectual advantages to the free-movement agreement. She pointed out that European institutions have been pro-active in setting educational standards, entitlements, and expectations at every level, from pre-school to higher education, underpinning the quality of education in this country as well as the ability of students to move around within Europe. Professor Rosenhaft cited some of the wider benefits of EU membership, such as the European Social Fund, which has given £285 million to Merseyside to support projects for improving skills and widening horizons, with funding going to community as well as school groups. Following Will’s closing warning of the dangers of isolationism and intolerance, the floor was opened to the audience.
Karen Gilmartin, senior teacher of French, Spanish, and Latin at the Belvedere Academy, commented on the discussion:
We are lucky at Belvedere to have native speakers of French and Spanish who bring to life for our girls on a daily basis the importance of our relationship with our European neighbours. Although our students are not always well informed on the machinery of the EU, we are, hopefully, reinforcing the link on a personal level. The discussion which you so kindly led last week provided evidence of this when the students were asked how they would have voted, had they been old enough, in the forthcoming referendum.