Year ending 30 September 2002
Democracy is more than a political system: it is a way of life. To participate effectively, we are all entitled to understand how it works.
National Youth Parliament Competition
A unique format for introducing 12-18 year olds to the Westminster political model, school teams recreate the House of Commons and produce a 20-minute video of their Question Time and debate. The 2002 winning school, chosen by a panel including MPs from each of the three main parties, was veteran participant St Michael’s RC School, Billingham. Twenty-five members of the 250-strong winning team visited London in July for a reception at the House of Lords followed by tea at Downing Street, kindly hosted by Cherie Booth QC. Five individual winners also attended: Minister, Opposition Spokesperson, Backbencher, Speaker and Press Officer, all of whom were presented their prizes by their real-life counterparts including then Education Secretary Estelle Morris and Speaker Michael Martin.
Visit the National Youth Parliament Competition web page.
MPs in Schools
July saw the launch of a resource pack supporting MPs’ visits to local schools as part of this Hansard Society project, on which we collaborated. Devised for use with 10-14 year olds, the pack encourages preparatory and follow-up activity, including discussion about the role of MPs in their constituencies and in parliament, and suggests how to conduct a topical debate, for example on Internet safety.
Political Literacy Project
Following extensive trialling with forty schools across the UK, we produced a programme of discussion-based political literacy teaching materials for Key Stages 3 and 4 (11-16 year olds) that will be published by Hodder Murray in 2003/4. The materials are unique in their focus on the essential concepts underlying public issues, processes and political institutions – such as power, rights and justice – rather than on dry political facts.
Independent evaluation by the University of York concluded that ‘the materials have been used extremely positively by teachers and lay the foundation for further very valuable and necessary work.’ We would like to find support for an expansion of pilot research undertaken to test the validity of the approach taken by the materials. This would explore, across a variety of schools, the way political thinking develops in young people and how teachers can most effectively facilitate this learning.
2001/2002 was the last year of this project, in partnership with Candida Weston and the Russian Centre for Citizenship Education in St Petersburg. Based in Gatchina and Luga in Russia, ‘Our Town’ aimed to encourage community decision-making about issues of public concern through building sustainable links between government, NGOs and the local population. Outcomes included the creation of a volunteer centre and permanent volunteer teams, tackling issues such as litter, recycling and conservation.