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Parliament Week 2012

To celebrate democracy as a central theme of Parliament Week 2012 and explore the democratic processes of the UK.

by Gordon Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 3/4

Aims

To celebrate democracy as a central theme of Parliament Week 2012 and explore the democratic processes of the UK.

Preparation and materials

Assembly

  1. Explain that something called ‘Parliament Week’, run by the UK Parliament, will take place from 19 to 25 November. The week aims to get people across the UK talking about Parliament, politics and democracy.
  2. Show the short film made by young people as part of last year’s Parliament Week. The whole film is about 12 minutes long so you may prefer to play an extract, perhaps stopping at about 2 minutes where the speaker says ‘all their so-called sixth form have gone on to university’.
  3. Many of us – staff, students and parents – have probably at some time moaned about ‘them’ and we often mean people in charge, such as politicians in one of our national parliaments or in local councils. We hear or even say things such as:

    ‘They don’t seem to do anything.’
    ‘They don’t know what real life is like.’
    ‘They’re just in it for the money.’

    Most people elected to Parliament or to a council work hard and are committed to changing the world for the better, and some, particularly in local situations, work for no pay because of what they believe in.
  4. If there is an issue that you want to see tackled and you would like your MP, MEP or town or city councillor to do something about it, have you ever thought that they work for you? As the film shows, you can make your voice heard in various ways and even if you don’t have the vote yet, your ideas matter.

    –  Most political parties have young people’s sections and events.
    –  If you write to your MP, you will get a reply.
    –  There are campaigns on all sorts of issues that you can join (or start your own!).
    –  There is even a website to start your own e-petitions online.
    –  You can change things locally by joining a school council or getting elected to help lead a club or group.
  5. Politics can seem remote and you may feel it has little to do with your everyday lives but as Parliament Week shows, you can get involved and make a difference. Great changes have been brought about by ordinary people becoming involved in politics: votes for women, the abolition of slavery and the creation of the NHS, for example.

    Sometimes it can be very hard to change things and can take a long time but change would never happen without people taking an active role in democracy through campaigns and by using their votes wisely.
  6. This year, schoolgirl Martha Payne started blogging about her school dinners, giving assessments and showing photos. At one point her local council tried to stop her but pressure on social media sites quickly got her blog reinstated.

    People can make a difference – that too is part of democracy.
  7. Our system may not be perfect. Winston Churchill said, ‘It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried from time to time.’

    Democracy is the only system which guarantees the ordinary person a voice – but we have to be prepared to use that voice.

    (You may want to remind the group that once they are 16, they can prepare for the next election by registering to vote. All the details are online. See ‘Preparation and materials’.)

Time for reflection

The adults may have the votes and the power now but the future belongs to you. What will you do with it and how will you start to make a difference now?

Music

A Play some protest music, such as ‘Peace train’ by Cat Stevens, ‘Blowing in the wind’ by Bob Dylan, or one of your own favourites.

Publication date: November 2012   (Vol.14 No.11)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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