the weekly newsletter from Dr Ruth Weeks, Headmistress
Year 12 Join Debate in Parliament
26 June 2015
On Monday 22 June 2015, Year 12 visited the Houses of Parliament in London. At 7:00am, a very sleepy group of Year 12 girls (and teachers) arrived at school in order to make their way to London. For most of the girls on the coach, the Oxford service station appeared as a Starbucks haven, where girls could ease their tiredness with copious cups of coffee.
When we arrived at Westminster, everyone was amazed by the majestic architecture that held within it the House of Commons and the House of Lords. We were greeted by two knowledgeable guides who explained the significance of each part of the building.
First, we made our way through the central lobby, which is the heart of the Houses of Parliament. It is the crossroads between the House of Commons and the House of Lords and is where UK citizens can come here to meet a Member of Parliament or a Member of the House of Lords. In fact, central lobby is also a testament to the struggle for women's suffrage in the 20th century. The decorative, high vaulted ceiling and the impressive statues of both Kings and Queens of England and Scotland blew us away and really set the scene for what is an historical building.
We were then shown into the House of Commons Chamber. This is where Members of Parliament meet to discuss legislation, to hold the Government to account and debate issues that concern them or their constituents. It was fascinating to explore the different roles within the House of Commons and observe features of the Chamber that are so often broadcast to the nation. We learnt about the history of the Chamber and learnt that the House of Commons is the 20th century part of the building as it was rebuilt after it was bombed during the Second World War.
Next we made our way to the House of Lords Chamber. The House of Lords is an integral part of the UK Parliament. Members of the Lords play an important role in making laws and scrutinising the actions of Government,bringing the breadth of their experience to bear on issues and policies affecting the UK public. As soon as we walked into the Chamber, everyone was overwhelmed by the gold structure at the far end; the monarch's throne, laced with gold leaf, was stunning and made a great impact.
The third part of our tour included a visit to Westminster Hall. Westminster Hall is the oldest building on the Parliamentary estate. The Hall was built in 1097 under William II, the son of William the Conqueror, and was completed two years later. He had commissioned the project to impress his new subjects with his power and the majesty of his authority. In fact, the Hall was indeed by far the largest hall in England, and probably in Europe at that time. With both its extraordinary structure and important historical background, it was indeed appropriate to take a group photograph.
After our tour, we were able to take part in a workshop that involved us debating about a particular subject that we felt passionate about. Our local MP, Gisela Stuart, even visited us to talk about any outstanding issues that we had regarding Birmingham and how she was planning to address them. It was reassuring to know that Birmingham had a representative, especially a woman, who was passionate about their constituency and who made decisions in order to make Birmingham the best city it could be.
The second half of our trip consisted of shopping and eating lunch in Covent Garden. The beautiful piazza, surrounded by cosmopolitan buildings, really showed us how exciting London is and the various street acts that were taking place in the main square really emphasized London's diverse culture.
Overall, the trip to the London was extremely worthwhile. Not only did the girls gain knowledge on how our country is governed, but also were inspired to take an active role in politics itself, especially from the ever increasing number of women MPs.
We would like to say a special thank you to Miss Graham for organising the trip and also to the teachers who accompanied us throughout the day. It was definitely a trip that I would love to do all over again!
Eleanor Smith, Form 12SM