Who needs politicians when you have ten-year-olds to sort out the world's problems? STEPHEN LEWIS tagged along for this year's York primary schools public speaking competition

TRUST a ten-year-old to tell it like it is.

"You can't believe everything you read in the newspapers!" proclaimed Josie Cryer. What, not even when that newspaper is telling you York is the best place to live in the UK?

Apparently not. "York is not as big as Leeds, and it doesn't have a Premier League football team like Huddersfield," said Josie, a pupil at Archbishop of York's junior school.

Josie's classmate Chloe Waller wasn't going to take this lying down. "But York has 500 ghosts!" she said. "It's the most haunted city in Europe." Then came the clincher. "There's a pub for every day of the year," Chloe said. "Which our dads like!"

York Press:

Don't believe everything you read in the news: Chloe Waller and Josie Cryer of Archbishop of York primary

Chloe and Josie weren't the only children to be debating whether York really was the best place to live in the UK.

The event was the annual primary school public speaking competition organised by York Civic Trust. The location was the Merchant Adventurers Hall. And 22 children from 11 primary schools were busy showing the grown-ups how to go about having a proper debate.

Eleanor McQuinn and Dulcie Kyle from St Paul's primary were keen to point out that not everything about York was great. Houses were just too expensive. "The average house in York is about £270,000!" Dulcie said.

Hannah Joji and Samuel Dewhirst from Clifton Green primary got into a heated discussion about whether York could really compare with London as a place to live. Hannah was for London, Samuel for York. The pair flung attractions at each other. "Clifford's Tower, York Minster, the city walls, the Viking centre," said Samuel.

"The London Eye, the Tower of London, and what's it's name? Buckingham Palace!" retorted Hannah. "Boring!" came back Samuel. "Who cares about royalty?"

Daniel Healey-Smith and Millie Batterton, from St Wilfrid's agreed that York was the best place to live in Britain. They just didn't agree about why. Millie loved the fact it was a modern city, with the fastest broadband in the UK.

York Press:

Old York meets new York: Millie Batterton and Daniel Healey-Smith of St Wilfrid's

Daniel, who was more impressed by the city's long history, snorted. "York is a Roman city," he said. "The Romans didn't look for Google and Wi-Fi!" Eventually, the pair agreed to differ. "What you're saying is, old York meets new York," Daniel said. Precisely.

Other topics debated on Wednesday night included whether austerity York needed a new workhouse; which time period (Roman or Victorian) would be best to visit in a time machine; who should be chosen for York Civic Trust's next blue plaque - and what should be done with the Castle car park.

Forget Shakespearian theatres or extensions to the Castle Museum. What the car park really needed was a plastic recycling plant, said Alika Eastabrook and Ahjeen Kim from Badger Hill primary. Why? So we could stop marine wildlife being killed by discarded plastic, of course.

Or how about a six-sided multi-faith centre, where people of all the city's six major faiths could meet up to sit and eat and talk together, suggested James Taylor and Yousif Sabel from St Lawrence's primary? It could work, Yousif insisted: his own school proved that people from different backgrounds could learn to live together. "We have children from all major religions and who speak 17 languages," he said. "The only one I know is Yorkshire!" said James.

York Press:

17 languages: James Taylor and Yousif Sabel from St Lawrence's

Ibrahim Lloyd and Daisy Bailie from Yearsley Grove primary had an even more ambitious idea for the Castle car park: cover it in a giant solar panel plant.

Daisy wasn't convinced at first. "The sun's not out at night," she said. "Does that mean York couldn't use electricity at night?"

Ibrahim gave her one of those looks. "You store it in a battery pack!" he said.

Jack Doran and Olivia Burns of Dringhouses primary argued York really did need a new workhouse for a new century - but a kind, welcoming one which would help those in need find their feet again. They even had an idea where it could go - on Piccadilly, looking out over the Foss.

Poppy Kay and Elsa Antrobus from Scarcroft primary suggested that the architect and designer Walter Brierley would be a good candidate for the next civic trust plaque - but then, he did design their school.

And several children got into a ding-dong argument about which era they'd prefer to visit in a time machine - Victorian or Roman.

York Press:

Late Romans: Lydia Cain and Amy Nixon from Copmanthorpe primary

Amy Nixon from Copmanthorpe Primary was all for going back to Roman times. Her schoolmate Lydia Cain wasn't convinced. The Romans couldn't have been all that great, she pointed out. They landed in Britain in 43 AD, but didn't get to York until 71 AD. "Why did it take them a quarter of a century to get here?"

Betsy Greenway of Lord Deramore's was equally unimpressed. "What have the Romans ever done for us?" she asked. Her schoolmate Emily Dodsworth looked at her witheringly. "Really?" she said. Betsy looked sheepish. "I couldn't resist," she admitted.

It was Emily who had the final say, however. "If the Romans were to come back with us, what do you think they would make of present-day York?" she asked.

Now there's a question...

Judges deliberated for half an hour after the debates were over, and head judge Darrell Buttery admitted they had been hard-pressed to decide a winner. "You have all been astonishingly good!" he told the children.

York Press:

'Astonishingly good': Wednesday night's debaters...

But a winner there had to be. Third place went to Hannah Joji and Samuel Dewhirst from Clifton Green. Copmanthorpe's Lydian Cain and Amy Nixon placed second.

And the winner? For the third year in a row, it was St Wilfrid's. A delighted Millie Batterton and Daniel Healey-Smith were presented with the winners' trophy by Lord Mayor of York, Cllr Keith Orrell.

Neither had expected to win, they admitted. "I thought everyone would be fed-up with St Wilfrid's!" Daniel said.

"But we weren't going to go down without a fight!" Millie added.

They certainly didn't...