Parliament Week 2014

Samantha Acton, Operations Director at Domestic Angels a local cleaning company, hosted her second Parliament Week event at Bournemouth Town Hall on Friday. This event was attended by over 50 Bournemouth senior school students and teachers from, the following schools Bournemouth School, Bournemouth School for Girls, St Peters, Winton & Glenmoor Schools, Bournemouth Collegiate School, and The Bourne Academy. The event was Chaired by The Mayor beginning with a workshop delivered by a member of the Parliamentary Outreach Team who presented a comprehensive explanation of how Parliament works.
This was followed by a debating session involving a panel of 5 local political figures and the students who used the electronic voting system in the Council Chamber to conclude each debate.

The panel introduced themselves, their current and past roles in the political arena. They were: Julie Girling MEP for SW England & Gibraltar (Cons), Annette Brooke MP (Lib Dem) for North Poole & Mid Dorset, Tobias Ellwood MP Bournemouth East (Cons), Cllr Jane Kelly (Cons), Vikki Slade, Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for North Poole & Mid Dorset (Lib Dem) 

Parliament Week is a national programme of events and activities, co-ordinated by the House of Commons and House of Lords, which aims to raise awareness of Parliament and encourage people to engage with the UK’s democratic system and its institutions.

This year’s event was the second hosted by Samantha Acton with the structure and content based on feedback entirely on last year’s inaugural event.  Last year students requested more information on how Parliament works and more opportunity to interact with MP’s. They also requested to choose the content of the debates, the students of Bournemouth School choose the questions which were circulated in advance to participating schools. The questions debated and the voting outcome was:

European – Should we have a referendum on EU membership?  Result on debate:  YES – 32   NO – 18       ABSTAIN – 1

National – The response of the main parties to the growth of UKIP, has it been sufficient/appropriate? Result on debate: YES – 7    NO –  39  ABSTAIN – 5

Local – Homelessness in the Bournemouth area, what are the possible remedies and is it being handled properly? Result on debate: YES – 21  NO – 20    ABSTAIN – 10

The event was supported throughout by a live twitter feed which reported proceedings, interacted with the students and gained much recognition in re-tweets from across the country.

Samantha Acton commented after the event “Partnering Parliament Week is a privilege and an opportunity. It is of great benefit to the senior school students of Bournemouth. Each year, theirs and their teachers input are helping to find the right formula for the future hopefully guaranteeing that this valuable event becomes a fixed event in the Bournemouth calendar. This event wouldn’t be possible without the support of volunteers, our sponsors Morgan Sindall, and our stakeholders Bournemouth Chamber of Trade and Bournemouth Council whose staff in democratic services and economic regeneration ensured the event ran smoothly and that the students had a positive experience”

Jim Attridge of Glenmoor School commented after the event “The opportunity to meet local MPs and hear their ideas about local, national and European issues was eye-opening for all of the students who attended from The Academies of Glenmoor and Winton. The Year 10 and Year 11 students who participated have become more aware of the differences in Party politics and the event has definitely inspired greater involvements in politics as a whole. We would like to thank Samantha Acton and her colleagues for organising this event.

After the event the students were invited to network with the panel and local Councillors giving them a chance to ask more questions. When asked for their reaction to the event, students were really positive:

Adam, Bournemouth Collegiate – “It was very interesting. It gave me a lot of information and has changed my views. It was good having a vote at the end of each debate.  It was very engaging, listening to others’ views in the local community and I now feel that my vote matters.”

James Kravos, St Peter’s School– “Generally liked the event. It was good seeing MP’s in the flesh. I am surprised how little they are worried about the rise of UKIP.  The whole event was a good idea.”

Bethany & Wilf, St Peter’s – both thought the event was very good and felt that more time for questions were preferable.

Zak & Liam, St Peter’s – “a great experience, hearing different views.  Joined-up thinking was obvious between the Conservative MEP, MP and Councillor.”

Chair of the event, Cllr Chris Mayne, Mayor of Bournemouth – “Fascinating group.  Interesting comments from the students and interesting input from the politicians.”

Barry Bonds, Politics Teacher at Bournemouth School, – “It was engaging and enjoyable for the students.  A unique opportunity to see the practical implications of the theories and models we study in class.”

The programme included more than 100 activities around the UK, each designed to spark thought and discussion about politics and democracy, and to look at how Parliament affects people’s lives. Over 300 external partners, including charities, schools, museums and community groups, are joining with Parliament to host events and online activities demonstrating how people can engage with different aspects of democracy in the UK.

MPs and Peers were be taking part in Parliament Week events, providing the public with the opportunity to engage with key decision-makers at the centre of British politics, as well as with the institution that makes it all happen.

Parliament Week 2014 also launched the “Do Democracy” social media campaign, encouraging young people to share issues important to them under the hashtag #DoDemocracy. The campaign will run on TwitterInstagram and Facebook, and featured a number of live Twitter Q&As with Parliamentarians during the week.

This year voting on ballots was introduced using the Town Hall electrical ballot system providing this opportunity to interact with MPs and MEPs on the subjects they consider to be important.

Amber Williams a BSG pupil asked the question of the panel “It seems that we don’t have influence in Europe now.  David Cameron wants to cap immigration but is not allowed to.  What influence do we have if our own PM can’t make decisions?” The replies were very varied but it opened up the floor for a lively debate