With the current impasse over Brexit you might be sceptical as to whether MPs have all the answers! However, judging by Laleham Gap’s approach they are more than happy to quiz their local MP about some very weighty issues.
Over the past few weeks Mr Ursell, a teacher at Laleham Gap, has been teaching a Year 7 class about British values, discussing themes such as democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, tolerance etc.
“It felt obvious” explained Mr Ursell, “that should we allow the children to question our local representatives about this.”
Unfortunately due to Parliamentary commitments the local MP, Sir Roger Gale, could not attend the school. So Mr Ursell suggested he would just forward any questions the children had. So in one lesson Mr Ursell put a box out and offered the children had an opportunity to write a question, anonymously if they prefered.
“I think it is really important that children are given the opportunity to think and learn about these things, and wherever possible in a real-life situation. So I do think they should be able to question their MP. After all schools are educating pupils, who will become the citizens of tomorrow.”
Mr Ursell was really pleased with the questions the children came up with. They ranged from: What would the world be like without democracy to why are MPs getting a pay rise? Because they had been discussing different ways of rule.
“What would you think the world would be like without democracy?”
Mr Gale replied:
“Parts of the world do not enjoy democratic government. They are dictatorships or repressive totalitarian regimes with control over speech and behaviour. Not pretty.”
The MP gave personalised answers to every question. Some questions were about what it was like to be an MP, had he met the Queen and how to you get knighted. Others were of the more ‘hard-hitting’ variety. Findley, for example asked ‘Why did you vote yourself a 14% pay rise but not the emergency services?’ In keeping his answers brief and factual Roger said:
“MPs did not vote themselves a 14% pay rise. Members’ salaries are determined by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.”
If any of the children felt their question had not been fully addressed “even this was an instructive lesson” explained Mr Ursell.
“It gave me the opportunity for me to tell them that they have the right to go back to public representatives and seek more answers.”
Mr Gale was asked if it was ‘ good’ being an MP. To which he responded:
“Like all jobs it has its rewards and its frustrations. It involves long hours and little time for leisure or families but we meet very many interesting men and women from around the world and can, sometimes, make a real difference to people`s lives. Nobody I know does it for the money!”
Overall Mr Ursell said he was “delighted” that the pupils “were engaging like this, thinking about democracy and wider issues.” He thanked the MP for taking the time to answer all the questions and vowed to continue getting to think about their role in society.
All the questions and answers:
Adam: What would you think the world would be like without democracy?
Parts of the world do not enjoy democratic government. They are dictatorships or repressive totalitarian regimes with control over speech and behaviour. Not pretty.
Anonymous 1: Parliament seems in a bit of a mess over Brexit. Is it working?
Democracy is about robustly expressed opposing opinions and consensus. At the moment there is no consensus (agreement around any one solution) bute hopefully that will come: there will be life after Brexit!
Jake: Have you ever met the Queen?
Yes, several times. Most recently when I was sworn in as a Privy Councillor at Buckingham Palace.
Anonymous 2: Why are you a ‘Sir?’
“Sir” is the title afforded to a Knight of the Realm.
I received my knighthood from the Queen for Political and Public service as a Member of Parliament.
Findley: Why did you vote yourself a 14% pay rise but not the emergency services?
MPs did not vote themselves a 14% pay rise. Members` salaries are determined by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority
Anonymous 3: Why are free school meals being stopped?
Schools and local authorities have to prioritise the manner in which they spend the taxpayers` money that is available to them. School meals are not “free”. They are paid for by the taxpayer and authorities have a duty to target assistance where it is most needed – which in some cases may include some meals for some children.
Anonymous 4: Is it good being an MP?
Like all jobs it has its rewards and its frustrations. It involves long hours and little time for leisure or families but we meet very many interesting men and women from around the world and can, sometimes, make a real difference to people`s lives. Nobody I know does it for the money!