General Election 2017: Voting and Democracy
The second in a series of assemblies considering the UK general election 2017
by Claire Law
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider why voting is important and what we mean by democracy.
Preparation and materials
You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (General Election - Voting and Democracy) and the means to display them.
Have available the video ‘Democracy Day: How does democracy work in the UK?’ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 3.09 minutes long and is available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schoolreport/31728183
Optional: you may wish to arrange four students to stand up and read out statements from where they are sitting during the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly. The statements are on Slide 4 of the accompanying PowerPoint deck.
Ask the following questions as a means of introduction.
- Who watched The X Factor last year?
Show Slide 1.
- Did any of you vote?
- Did any of you vote for Honey G?
- How many people do we think voted in the final?
In the final show of the series, over 6.4 million votes were cast for the last two contestants, Matt Terry and Saara Aalto.
Does it matter that there is a vote as part of this show? Without the public vote, and then the big reveal, it just wouldn’t be The X Factor. Part of the excitement about this programme is the fact that the public get to have a say about who they keep and who they send home. If this decision was only down to Simon Cowell, the programme would not be anywhere near as interesting or successful.
In the UK, adults have the right to vote for who runs the country. On 8 June 2017, the UK will have the chance to vote in a general election to decide this for the next five years. This is an important decision, and it really matters that people have the right to vote and be involved in the decision. However, this has not always been the case.
In the UK, before 1832, only men over the age of 21 who were property owners were allowed to vote. Things began to change with the 1832 Reform Act, which meant that more men could vote. In 1918, most women over the age of 30 gained the right to vote. In 1928, both women and men over 21 were eligible to vote. In 1969, the voting age was lowered to 18 years old.
Throughout history, people in the UK have campaigned for the right to vote. In the latter half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, the suffragists and the suffragettes were two groups campaigning for women’s right to vote. The suffragists campaigned by using peaceful methods such as lobbying, whereas the suffragettes were determined to win the right to vote for women by any means. Their militant campaigning sometimes included unlawful and violent acts that attracted much publicity.
Show Slide 2.
Emmeline Pankhurst was a leading figure in the suffragette movement. She led the Women’s Social and Political Union, which campaigned militantly to win the right for women to vote. Emmeline was arrested many times during her campaigns. She died in 1928, shortly before women were granted equal voting rights with men.
One of the key principles and values of the UK is that it is a democratic nation.
Show Slide 3.
Democracy means ‘rule by the people’. Being a democracy means that people can take part in decisions that affect the way the country is run.
Let’s find out a bit more about democracy in the UK and why it is so important by watching this video clip.
Show the video ‘Democracy Day: How does democracy work in the UK?’, available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schoolreport/31728183
Time for reflection
So, what have we learnt from today’s assembly?
Show Slide 4.
(Optional: you may wish to arrange four students to stand up and read out the following statements from where they are sitting. This will help to convey the idea that in a democracy, people have a say. However, the statements can be read by the leader if you prefer.)
Adults have the right to vote in the UK.
People campaigned and worked hard for people to have this right to vote.
The UK is a democratic country where a person’s right to vote is important.
As the 2017 general election approaches, we reflect on the freedom that we have in the UK to be part of a democracy.
We thank you, Lord, that you have given us the ability to think for ourselves and make decisions.
We thank you that we have the freedom of speech and expression in the UK that is so important in a democracy.
Please help anyone who is eligible to vote in the UK to think carefully about their vote, and to act with wisdom.
We thank you for the campaigning work of people throughout history who have worked towards achieving democracy.
We are also aware that in some parts of the world, people are not allowed to take part in democratic, free elections.
Please help the leaders in these countries to listen to the ideas and voices of the people.
Help us never to take for granted the blessing that is democracy.