As Thursday 25th June – the day that St Mark’s would be hosting the B&NES Young Parliament conference – rapidly approached, I repeatedly checked the long term forecast. Would the threatened rain hold back? Would we have to relocate our break time refreshments inside? If so, where? Would the banners that the students crafted so beautifully survive the rain? Such questions beleaguered me. Fortunately the heavens smiled and the day dawned warm and sunny, a taster of the great day ahead of us.
Young Parliament is a significant annual event in the school calendar. It is when representatives of all the schools in B&NES are invited to spend a day in conference discussing ideas relevant to students through workshops. The students then create presentations to perform in the afternoon to fellow delegates and also members of the council, governors and other people involved with local education. The aim is to persuade the audience to elect their proposal as the key issue for the council to consider when planning children’s services in the year ahead – so what our students say has real impact.
What is exciting about Youth Parliament is run by the students for the students. Students get their say – and it is listened to.
Our St Mark’s students were fantastic ambassadors for the school – they wanted to host the best possible event and put on a really good show for the 100 or more visitors we expected. They spent weeks preparing for the big day with support from the council: they chose the key theme of Me, Myself, My School; decided what would be discussed in the workshops and then researched and designed them.
We wanted to create a sense of well-being – this was one of our themes – so providing healthy and delicious food was important. To do this the students formed a Food Team which worked closely with school chef, Fatina. They worked fabulously together creating a tasty menu and working as a team the evenings before. The food was a resounding success with all visitors complimenting our world menu.
The day ran really smoothly – delegates from most schools in B&NES arrived eager to get debating. They listened carefully to our inspiring speakers such as Year 11 pupil Moyra Akure and Ed Joseph, B&NES’s Young MP before breaking up into workshops to explore such topics as how relevant is the school curriculum to the 21st century and is the whole well-being of pupils catered for well.
The student delegates worked with gusto and produced funny, thought-provoking and, at times, moving presentations in an amazingly short period of time. It was really good to see how all pupils took to the stage to deliver their ideas to the audience – however shy they felt.
After hearing the teams’ performances, each delegate voted. The topic ‘Power to the Pupils?’ was elected as a focus for attention – students keenly felt they wanted to be consulted more in matters to do with school and gave many practical suggestions as to how this could be done. Chair of the Council, Mr Ian Gilchrist, and Mr Mike Bowden, Divisional Director of People and Communities congratulated all the students on their hard work and great ideas while reassuring them their ideas had been heard and would be considered in council. All too soon, it was over and everyone left buzzing, agreeing it had been an enjoyable and stimulating day.
Our students were amazing – I cannot praise them enough. Over the weeks they were consistently enthusiastic, eager to help, and showed how capable they truly are. On the day, students helped make it all happen – as media technicians, site organisers, hosts, stewards, speakers, workshop leaders, catering assistants and so much more. They were brilliant. I also need to thank the many other students who helped in the lead up by making the environment welcoming with banners and bunting and sprucing up the site. It was a truly whole-school effort and we are so proud of the day we created.
Mrs Pakeman (Student Leadership)