Westminster Diary: Making the most of school visits
PUBLISHED: 10:23 10 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:23 10 March 2020
Welcome to my Westminster Diary. Each week, I’ll be giving a light-hearted behind-the-scenes take on what life is really like as a new MP. From jeering and bobbing, procedures and prayers, I’ll be lifting the lid on the mother of all Parliaments. Think ‘The Thick of It’ not ‘House of Cards’!
In amongst the 'big p' Politics of Westminster, MPs get a perk that's always a breath of fresh air - school visits. Last week I met with three school groups and they didn't disappoint.
The first group came to Parliament to learn how democracy works: from watching MPs debate in the Chamber to experiencing 'augmented reality' in Parliament's impressive Education Centre. I met them for a 10 minute Q&A in the middle of their tour.
I always tend to ask about their best and worst bits of the day. Invariably, the best bit is the House of Lords (children like the plush red and gold décor) whilst the worst is being hungry (packed lunches have to be left on the bus for the trip home)!
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These Q&'s always reflect the big issues of the day: coronavirus, climate change, even 'County Lines' drug issues. It is sobering to hear questions on such big issues from young people. There is no politics, just an eagerness for knowledge and the assurance that someone is working in their best interests.
Of course, it's not all so serious; I have also been asked whether I get nervous when making speeches and what my favourite animal is.
My second visit was a junior school. A packed room of seven to 10 year olds. They understand how they elect class reps, and it's the perfect analogy. 'How many class reps, or MPs, do you think there are in Parliament?' Hands shot up. '12, 15, 22, 46?' It took a little while to get to 650 but the gasps as the guesses got bigger and closer were delightful!
My third visit was with a group of sixth form students and at that age, it was more of a conversation. As well as political issues, they asked questions that reflect how close they are to choosing their own path in life: what's it like being a woman MP, what can be done to support more diversity (both physical and mental) in politics?
As I left, one of the teachers - proud of their students - gave me a knowing look and said: 'it's why we do it, isn't it?'