General Election 2017 - Time to Choose
What happens at a general election?
by Alan M. Barker
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider that a general election is a time to choose.
Preparation and materials
You will need two children’s books that are appropriate for those attending the assembly.
You may wish to display the following images, in which case you will also need the means to do so:
- Theresa May, available at: https://tinyurl.com/kknorjq
- the Houses of Parliament, available at: https://tinyurl.com/ksem8s7
You will also need to prepare a mock ballot paper. Alternatively, you can display an image of a ballot paper, in which case you will also need the means to do so. An image is available at: https://tinyurl.com/n7t7zgr
Optional: you may wish to have available the video ‘How a general election works - in 60 seconds’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/39628030 (scroll down to the second video on the page).
Note: the key terms are in bold in the ‘Assembly’ for ease of delivery.
Further resources to support this theme are available at: http://tinyurl.com/kqs9k3l
Hold up the two children’s books and show them to the children, looking at each in turn.
Explain that there might be time to read only one of the books. Which should you choose? The question will prompt suggestions from the children. Should the choice be yours alone or might the class be allowed to choose? If so, how might everyone decide fairly?
Establish that the children might want to talk about the choice. Some might want to persuade their friends to choose one of the titles. Others will want some time to think and some might like to read the opening pages.
How will they indicate their choice? Perhaps with an open show of hands or by placing tokens in jars or a cross beside one of the titles printed on a slip of paper. The choice will be made through a vote.
Show the image of Theresa May.
Remind the children that an announcement was made on 18 April 2017 that a general election would be held on 8 June. The decision of the Prime Minister, Theresa May, came as a big surprise. Many people are busy getting ready for the big event.
Refer back to your introduction. Many of the children will also have voted to choose representatives for the school council. Explain that a general election is the time to choose people to be part of the UK Parliament in London.
Show the image of the Houses of Parliament.
Members of Parliament are also known as MPs. The general election will see 650 MPs elected to the House of Commons, and now is the time for people to choose who those MPs will be.
Explain that anyone who wants to be chosen as an MP is known as a parliamentary candidate. The area of the country that they want to represent is known as a constituency.
Ask the question: what constituency is this school in?
Explain how each constituency will have several candidates, each with different ideas and experience. Many candidates belong to political parties, which are groups of people who have shared aims and ideals.
Explain that now that the general election has been announced, the candidates and their supporters will be saying to people, ‘Choose me!’ The children will see posters advertising the name of a candidate, often in the bright colours of their political party. Leaflets will be delivered to every door, often with a photograph of the candidate and an explanation of their ideas or manifesto. There will be lots of discussion and argument as to who should be chosen. The run-up to an election is an important and exciting time because it enables everyone to think and decide about things that affect us all.
So, how will people choose? Explain that on election day – 8 June - polling stations will be open from early in the morning until late at night. Polling stations are the place where people go to cast their vote. Often, schools and community halls are used. Explain to the children where their local polling stations will be.
At the polling station, people are given a form that lists the names of all of the candidates in their area. It’s called a ballot paper.
Show the mock ballot paper or the image of a ballot paper.
Everyone can vote by putting a cross beside the name of the person they want to choose. They then put the ballot paper into a locked box. This is called casting your vote. People who can’t get to their polling station can apply to vote by post. You can only vote in a public election when you reach the age of 18, but some schools organize pretend or ‘mock’ elections.
At the end of election day, the votes are gathered together from all of the polling stations to be counted. This can take a long time. The counting must be done very carefully and fairly. When the count is complete, the candidate who has received the most votes is declared the winner. Imagine how nervous everyone will feel waiting for the result! In each constituency, a returning officer is in charge of the election and announces the person who has been chosen to be the MP. Some will cheer. Others will be very disappointed. Will it be someone new? Who will be chosen?
Show the video ‘How a general election works - in 60 seconds’, available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/39628030
Time for reflection
The general election will continue to be an important part of the news until 8 June, and for some time after. It is a time to choose – and after election day, we will learn who has been chosen to lead the country for the next five years.
Each day, we have many choices,
And often we must find ways of choosing together.
Deciding isn’t always easy,
But we are thankful that we are free to choose.
Please give us wisdom to make the best choices.
‘Give us hope, Lord’ (Come and Praise, 87)