First News Education -

They can shape our future

Brought to you by Graham Andre’

Politics never really interested me, as a young man when the ‘Party Political Broadcasts’ came on TV I would turn over or if my Dad was in the room leave it to pursue something more interesting (often making a dam in a stream or climbing a tree). I just didn’t see the importance in it and was a bit ‘Que Sera, Sera’ about the whole thing.

Teaching is a wonderful thing and as you teach children about various things you often change your view on them yourself and become more educated about their importance. That is definitely what has happened to me as regards to politics and being able to shape our futures (and with recent events this has become even more important).

As a school we have always changed topics yearly to mirror real world events and make learning more meaningful for the children. In 2015 the Magna Carta celebrated its 700 year anniversary so our head said ‘Let’s use that as a topic’, this spread fear among many of the teaching staff at our school and didn’t fill me with glee if truth be told but how wrong can you be.

Following a whole school trip to the Houses of Parliament we began to learn about the importance of the Magna Carta and being able to have a voice, our Deputy Head started weekly Debate Assemblies (which you can read about here) and our school started classroom debates and became a mini democracy (Demo=People. Cracy=rule – Ancient Greek definition.)

With the surprise news that a General Election had been called the learning wheels of motion started to spin at Lanesend. Our ‘Deputy Head’ contacted prospective MP’s from each of the main parties in our area and invited them in to school for a ‘Question Time’ style grilling from the children, they accepted, if they could survive a school full of children unscathed then Parliament would be a doddle.

Before the visit we needed to find out a little more about General Elections and how they work, so with the power of Twitter I found the excellent First News General Election resources which I shared with colleagues. I started with a couple of basic questions to the children:

  • Can you name any political parties? (strangely enough, all main parties were named except Conservative – is this an area they need to look at, appealing to younger voters?)
  • Who is our Prime Minister? (One child knew, again a cause for concern?)
  • What does an MP do? What does MP stand for?
  • How does the process of a General Election work?

Using the First News resources we found the answer to these questions and more, children would often link the process with our own Debate Assemblies and being a democracy. We also found out some facts we didn’t know such as ‘The Isle of Wight has the biggest constituency and that Dame Dixon wanted us to be able to spend Monopoly money one day a year in all shops!’

With this information firmly in our brains it was time for some role play, I gave the children just a couple of minutes thinking time after posing the question ‘If you were an MP, what would your manifesto be to help the country?’. Now this is where you should never underestimate children, I expected ‘Make sweets free!’, ‘The inventor of Fidget Spinners should be made King/Queen’ etc. but no we had some brilliant manifestos, which generated some excellent debates. My two favourites were:

‘If I were Prime Minister (no stopping at just MP for this one) I would lower the legal age of voting to 16.’ When I asked her why she just replied ‘This is our future we should have a say, and if we can marry at 16 why can’t we vote, it affects us.’ This then started a debate on whether there should be an upper age limit as changes to Government have little impact on older people and their futures.’

Lily B (aged 8)

‘I would take half of all of the money from the rich and give to the poor. It isn’t fair that some people have lots of money but others have nothing.’ This caused some serious debate ‘But what if people choose not to work do they still deserve half?’ ‘What if the rich person has worked their whole life to earn that money?’ ‘What if the rich people employ others, but can’t if they have half their money taken away.’

Caeden H (aged 8)

To Caedens’ credit like any good MP he had an answer for all and was unflinching with his views.

So with a General Election just around the corner, contact your prospective MPs give them a grilling in assembly and maybe, just maybe you will find a future MP within your class. As Lily rightfully said the future is our children’s and they should help to shape it.

About the author

Graham Andre’ is a Year 3 teacher at Lanesend Primary and editor of Numeracy Shed

Follow him on Twitter: @grahamandre

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