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Long Road Politics students have afternoon tea with the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow

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When Politics A level students Harvey Monck (17), Lucy McMahon (16) and Oscar Brierley (16) entered a Political video competition,  little did they know that they would be meeting John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, at the Speaker’s House. Our students reached the final four of a national competition and met the judging panel: John Bercow MP; Michael Crick, Channel 4 News; Claire Ainsley, Director of Communications and External Affairs at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Helena Djurkovic, CEO of the Political Studies Association; and Professor Matthew Goodwin, PSA Trustee.

The competition, Designing for Democracy – what would you propose?, was devised by the Political Studies Association. Sixth form students were asked to design a democratic system from scratch and to make a four-minute video to present their ideas.

The aim of the competition, sponsored by YouGov and the Design Commission, was to get students to explore the advantages and disadvantages of different types of democratic systems, tackling the issue of how they could ensure proper representation of all groups in society. They were asked to consider what role citizens would have in the political system beyond polling day and how new technologies can be used to enhance democracy.

Lucy, Oscar and Harvey got to work on their theme of ‘power to the people’. They started with the House of Lords, renaming it the House of the People. The delegates would be elected by proportional representation and would be responsible for monitoring the House of Commons (still elected by ‘first past the post’).  MPs would be delegates, not representatives, and would be required to vote on issues based on constituency polls – an app would be developed for each constituency so that everyone with a smartphone could vote easily (including 16-year-olds, who would have the vote). Those without smartphones would be able write to their delegate, and there would be regular ward meetings, with everyone given an appointment by rotation to attend.

The video, SOLID Democracy, starts by pointing out how few people actually vote (more people watch The Great British Bake-off) before explaining in a lively and young people-friendly way how the system would work.

Lucy (a member of Young Labour), Oscar (film-maker) and Harvey (member of the Youth Parliament) were delighted to reach the final four. They had 15 minutes to explain their system to the panel of judges, and although they didn’t win this time, their disappointment was tempered by afternoon tea. “It was very posh,” says Lucy. “There was tea, cakes and squash served in a bone china tea service by a butler.”

“After being asked harsh questions by the judges, we were pleased to see how friendly they really were,” adds Oscar. “It turned out that the mother of Michael Crick (Channel 4 News) used to teach at Long Road when it was a girls’ school 40 years ago.

“We may not have won this year,” says Harvey, “But we’re going to have another go next year!”

CEO of The Political Studies Association Helena Djurkovic says:

“The video made by students at Long Road Sixth Form College impressed the judges for its well-thought-out and carefully planned script. It showed the students to be highly engaged with politics as well as having a strong understanding of democratic principles. The school have done brilliantly to reach the final of our Student Video Competition and I would urge them to consider building on their encouraging performance this year by entering the competition again next year.”

Dave Evans, Politics course team leader, says: “Congratulations to Oscar, Lucy and Harvey.  They did a brilliant job and enjoyed fine tea and cakes in a truly amazing setting!”

Photo: Long Road students with judges

Left to right: Harvey Monck; Michael Crick, Channel 4 News;  John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons; Claire Ainsley, Joseph Rowntree Foundation; Helena Djurkovic, CEO Political Studies Association; Oscar Brierley and Lucy McMahon.