In 2010, during the last General Election, I talked a little to my class about what was going on. We had a couple of assemblies about it, and I remember watching the constituency maps during the following day as the results began to come in. When a Hung Parliament became apparent, we talked about what this meant, although to my shame, I didn’t really know enough to inform the children properly. I remember thinking I had missed an enormous learning opportunity. So this time around, I’m making the most of it.
I am ashamed to admit that I have been fairly ignorant when it comes to politics. I’m getting better: I’ve watched lots of the debates this year and listened to the news a lot more than in the past. For most (but sadly not all) of my voting years, I’ve cast my vote, but it hasn’t been fully informed. I still don’t know enough, I don’t think, but I am trying. Politics was never something we discussed at school, even in the later secondary years, which I suppose didn’t really help my ignorance. So, I’m determined to help to make a generation who does care about what happens in our country.
Last half term, I planned a unit of work for this week, where the children will be finding out a little about how the election works, creating their own political parties, manifestos and speeches and then holding a proper election. I used a lot of the resources from the Parliament UK website, adapting their Election Toolkit resources to suit my children. I have to say, even back then, I was excited. Tonight, I sat down to remind myself of the activities for tomorrow: researching elections, forming the political parties and beginning to think of pledges for the manifestos. Out of curiosity, I had a quick trawl of the internet, and found another treasure trove of resources. How on earth I’m going to get through everything tomorrow is beyond me: I’m hoping to discuss the manifestos of all the main parties, found in child speak on the Twinkl website, before getting the children to debate the policies. I’ve got a tonne of printing to do before school as what was a little sideline has turned into a big display (more Twinkl resources!). On Thursday, we will be holding an election: the party leaders will be making their speeches to the class at the start of the day to inform the electorate, and then they will be making their mark on the ballot papers. A team of counters will be counting and verifying the votes before our class MP is revealed. Next week, we’ll be doing lots of statistics work around the (real) election results and possible coalition government combinations (although if the results are interesting enough, maybe the class election too!), and our geographical map work will be based around the changes in constituency maps (although I’ve yet to plan this, for obvious reasons!!!). This General Election could well turn out to be unlike any other, and I want my children to understand why.
I want the next two weeks to be fun, but to hammer home a serious message. My children are in year 4, so there will only be one more General Election after this before they get to vote. If we, as teachers, can begin to instil an interest and enthusiasm for politics and how it affects their lives, then perhaps they will want to take an interest when the time comes for them to make their mark.