The last two weeks have proved to be an exciting and enlightening time for all at RHS as we have looked into our theme of democracy in the Festival of Ideas.
Last week saw girls in Year 7 and 9 take part in our off-timetable Democracy project. The girls were given the challenge of forming political parties in their house groups and putting themselves forward for election. Our girls really threw themselves into the project and there was a palpable buzz, as well as a lot of posters, around the school throughout the three days. Girls initially went to ‘policy seminars’ led by teachers to help inform them about the big issues of the day in home affairs, foreign affairs, economic and environmental affairs. The great complexities of politics were brought home to them as, using an ingenious spreadsheet designed by Mr. Moyle, the girls were asked not only to consider what policies they might like to enact in these areas but how they would propose to pay for them.
Thursday was spent on independent work from the groups. It was a real pleasure to see the girls working with such commitment within their groups and developing such good learning habits of collaboration and critical thinking. They produced some memorable party political broadcasts and also attended masterclasses in classical rhetoric, presentation skills marketing and statistics – all of which were reflected well in their final submissions. Throughout this time a separate team of girls, the journalists, document and wrote articles about the different parties.
Friday was the big day of the election, including the visit from our sitting MP in the afternoon. All the parties were able to offer credible presentations and well-thought policies but the four parties attracting the most votes – Austentatious, Diversity, EnviroEd and the Yellow Party were selected by the houses as their candidates for the general election. Each party presented their ideas and was then subjected to a ‘Question Time’ style barrage of informed questions from the audience, ably chaired by Harriet and Maddie Whitmore before all girls visited our polling station and enjoyed some ice lollies. The girls’ passion and depth of understanding really impressed Wera Hobhouse who commended all the parties in her comments, before submitting to similarly challenging questions from the girls themselves.
Austentatious were the eventual winner of the election (by 13 votes) and will be duly returned to the RHS parliament. However, all those who took part in the process learned a great deal from the project and, most importantly, enjoyed taking part in all stages of the democratic process. Power to the people indeed!