Students debate inequality and sexual harassment at first Youth Assembly

Students from six schools in the North East came together at a unique Youth Assembly event to debate important issues facing society.

Around 150 students aged 14-18 took part in the event, at the Hancock Museum in Newcastle today [9 February], discussing issues such as crime, inequality and sexual harassment.

The event was organised by the British Sociological Association with the help of academics from universities in the region and from local schools: St Anthony’s Girl’s Academy, Sunderland; Sunderland College sixth form; Newcastle College sixth form; Durham sixth form centre; Queen Elizabeth High School, Hexham; and Queen Alexandra sixth form, North Shields.

The aim of the event, which could be a pilot for other assemblies held throughout Britain, was to bring together young people who have an interest in social sciences at GCSE, A-level and beyond.

Stephanie Rich, the British Sociological Association’s Public Engagement Officer, said the event had been a success.

“It was impressive to see the students debating such important issues knowledgeably and passionately,” she said.

“The Youth Assembly wasn’t about academics teaching students – the students needed no prompting to talk about how their own experiences were linked to wider issues in society.”

Academics and postgraduates from four universities in the region helped by leading various debates during the day.

A session on crime and inequalities, led by Dr Will Coyles, of Durham University, explored how young people’s experience of crime differs depending on their position in society.

A session on gender, sexualities and identity, led by Dr Sheila Quaid, of the University of Sunderland, looked at the history of gender pay gap, the problem of sexual harassment and the #Metoo response.

Professor Rob MacDonald, of Teesside University, led a session which looked at reaching adulthood in the deindustrialised neighbourhoods of Teesside.

A session by Dr Sarah Winkler-Reid, of Northumbria University, looked at the challenges and opportunities of growing up as a girl in the North East. Other topics covered at the event included young people and music.

The BSA is now evaluating the event and developing guidance to share with universities that want to develop their public engagement.

For more information and photographs of the event, please contact: 

Tony Trueman
British Sociological Association
Tel: 07964 023392


The British Sociological Association’s charitable aim is to promote sociology. The BSA is a Company Limited by Guarantee. Registered in England and Wales. Company Number: 3890729. Registered Charity Number 1080235