There was hot debate when Dorchester students attended Parliament.

Students from The Thomas Hardye School were among 80 students from across England who attended Parliament for the second Youth Debate - which discusses the role of religious education (RE) in schools.

They were welcomed to Westminster by William Wragg MP, Liz Twist MP, and historian of religion and broadcaster, Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou.

In a wide-ranging discussion – covering topics such as the role of religious literacy in combatting extremism, the need for RE in an increasingly secular society, and whether or not students learn more by studying their own religion than studying another.

United Nations debating rules were firmly applied in the chamber by the co-chairs - students from Mulberry School for Girls in Hackney, London.

A spokesman for the Thomas Hardye School said students, who are studying for a religious studies A level, enjoyed sharing their ideas and were impressed by the professionalism of the debate and the quality of the arguments from all sides.

Speaking after the event, Professor Stavrakopoulou said: “The level of debate was extremely impressive - the pupils were bright, passionate and rigorous in their arguments. They demonstrated great skill in debating difficult topics with enormous sensitivity and generosity to those with whom they disagreed.

“It is clear to me RE remains a vital and relevant element of a balanced curriculum. I hope that the Government takes steps to ensure it is protected, well-supported and properly resourced.”

The debate was staged by the Religious Education Council for England and Wales (REC) and the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE).

NATRE chairman, Ben Wood said: “Healthy debate is a vital part of modern RE. The knowledge and skills that comes from studying RE mean students are well equipped to take part in vigorous and meaningful debate on a wide variety of issues. The Youth Debate provided an excellent opportunity for MPs to see RE in action and witness the enthusiasm and passion shown by the young people taking part."