STUDENTS quizzed parliamentary candidates on tuition fees and affordable housing at a hustings yesterday.

More than 100 sixth formers from Matthew Arnold School in Arnold’s Way, Oxford, filled the assembly hall to put their concerns to candidates vying for the Oxford West and Abingdon seat.

Head of sixth form Tracey Oakden said UKIP candidate Alan Harris didn’t attend because he was “stuck in traffic”, and the Conservative candidate Nicola Blackwood could not attend because she was “doubled booked”.

But on her behalf was Conservative councillor and leader of Vale of White Horse District Council Matthew Barber.

Labour councillor John Tanner attended on behalf of candidate Sally Copley, who could not make it because she had agreed to an earlier date which was changed and was now at work.

Also present were Liberal Democrat candidate Layla Moran, Green Party candidate Larry Sanders and representative Adam Burick, on behalf of Mike Foster, from the Socialist Party.

Sixth-form pupil Cyra SulaMinns, 16, asked Mr Tanner how the Labour party proposed to maintain current teaching standards and cut tuition fees to £6,000.

Mr Tanner said that a series of grants would fund the gap, but when pushed by Miss Oakden on where the money would come from, he answered: “I can’t remember how we are paying for that.”

The future of art and music was also put to candidates after a pupil asked: “Do you propose to put art in the national curriculum and are you concerned at dropping figures for arts and music?” Lib Dem’s Layla Moran said: “I would like to see an increase in art subjects because they are important in our society.”

Building houses on Green Belt was also an issue put to candidates by pupils after one asked: “Will you propose to build on Green Belt for affordable housing?”

Candidates responded by highlighting the need for affordable housing for young people, explaining that Oxfordshire is one of the most challenging areas for young people to get on to the property ladder.

Candidate Ms Moran was asked by a pupil: “How can we trust the Lib Dems after broken promises of tuition fees?”

She responded by reminding pupils her party did not win the last General Election, and that she voted against the rise in fees “unlike the Conservatives.”

Further questions on the deficit, deterring teachers from leaving the profession due to pay and bus passes for students ensued over the hour-long debate.

Head of sixth from Tracey Oakden said: “I think students have a better idea of who they want to vote for. I was really impressed by the questions they had and how engaged they were.

“We have had feedback from the candidates and they said they were really impressed by the questions from the students.

Sixth form head boy Arjun Leksh, 17, said: “I thought it was important for everyone to get involved.

I was really proud of them because I thought the questions were excellent and I thought the arts question in particular was really good.”

Stuart Howes, 17, from Farmoor who will turn 18 just before the election, said: “Politics affects us all because they are going to make decisions that really affect our lives. I think you should be wellinformed before you vote so I think the debate did that.”