Westminster to Wycombe: bringing Parliament to local pupils

NB. This post was written by my researchers Tim Hewish and Gareth Crimp

We were thrilled to initiate, design and help create Westminster to Wycombe (W2W), a Parliamentary-style schools debate for local sixth form students.

What started as an idea last summer grew into a successful February event for the pupils and schools that participated. W2W was kindly hosted by Highcrest Academy and coordinated under the leadership of Emma Bowden. Highcrest’s tremendous effort ensured that their hall was transformed into an impressive ‘House of Wycombe’ Chamber for the day, complete with hand-crafted dispatch boxes and even a replica Parliamentary mace from the Mayor’s office.

The schools went up against each other in adversarial debates, just as MPs do in the House of Commons, contesting motions on ring fencing overseas aid; laws on digital piracy; reducing the national deficit; Britain’s membership of the European Union; and military intervention in Syria. After each debate they then had the opportunity to proceed through the voting lobbies to select whose side with which they agreed.

The debate was of an exceptionally high standard, with the students proving particularly vocal on the motions on Syria and Britain’s membership of the European Union. Once they had become familiar with the Parliamentary etiquette, the debate was characterised by a superb back-and-forth display with all the schools giving speeches that were full of fervour and conviction.

All of the students seized the opportunity to participate in the somewhat rowdier elements of Parliamentary show by taking to waving their order papers as cries of “Hear, Hear!” and “Shame!” were heard across the Chamber.

Bringing Parliament to Wycombe for a day was an enjoyable experience, and the students demonstrated that they have the potential to move from the ‘House of Wycombe’ to the real House of Commons.

We envisage repeating the event every year with it being hosted at different schools as well as the possibility of hosting the event in Parliament.

Finally, we want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all those involved in making W2W a trailblazing experience. You all played your parts excellently. We warmly encourage all MPs to replicate our day.

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