Children attend pupils' parliament at UWE

Issue date: 20 May 2009

Schoolchildren making nest boxes at UWE's Children Parliament event One hundred school councillors from the Hartcliffe and Withywood area of Bristol are spending the day mixing with councillors from other schools at their own Pupils' Parliament on Thursday 21 May at the Frenchay Campus of the University of the West of England.

The schools participating are Bridge Farm, Fair Furlong, Gay Elms, Hareclive, Bridge Learning Campus, St PiusX, Wansdyke and Bridge Learning Campus Secondary.

All pupils are school councillors aged five to 16 representing their school in their extended school partnership (ESP). As the ESP has a bee as its logo, this year's parliament is being called Bristol Buzz School Council. They will share their ideas, best practice and take back suggestions to their schools for sustainability in the next academic year.

Professor Ron Ritchie, Dean of the School of Education, said, “We are pleased to welcome young people to the University and hope that the experience will help raise their aspirations and encourage them to see a university as a friendly place where they might choose to come and study in the future.

“We are fully committed to activities which promote 'student voice' and support young people in having a say about what's important to them. The Parliament provides the young participants with opportunities to act as representatives, to debate important issues with others and engage in democratic processes, helping prepare them to become active and effective citizens in later life.”

During the day-long session the school children will be looking at ways of improving their school life and at the same time getting a taste of university. Postgraduate students from UWE will facilitate school councillors in three workshops. These are a 'Sharing Successes' workshop where they will have the opportunity to say what they are proud of and take away ideas from others that they may wish to use; the creation of school council logos that could be used to unify the extended schools partnerships pupils next year, and suggestions for the type of curriculum they feel they will need to be fully equipped for life in five years' time.

Pupils will also make wooden nest boxes with Linda and Keith Hall to hang in their school grounds that can be hooked up to cameras so that all pupils can observe the nesting, care and nurture of fledglings at close hand. Emma Whitaker from Green Generation will run a Wildlife Art workshop which can be used as a basis for Wildlife Artwork in pupils' own schools. Toby Hulse, well known for his work with drama and young people will run a confidence-building drama workshop.

All pupils experience three workshops each. All schools will have been represented in all six workshops, thereby allowing the schools on their return to have the full benefit of their experience.

Organiser Miranda McCabe said, “School councillors are vital to the whole process of running a school. Professor Ron Ritchie's welcome to the pupils at the start of the day is such that they are held in high regard. School councillors are vital to the whole process of involving pupil voice in the running of a school. Many of them will never have been in a University before; making a positive experience of this day is likely to mean that they will want to return one day.

“This opportunity means that they can spend quality time in quality surroundings meeting with school councillors from other schools. They can work together, act as ambassadors for their schools, have their opinions valued and take back specific ideas and actual nestboxes!”

Extended Schools Partnership Manager Les Fry said, “All of the schools in the BUZZ partnership encourage children and young people to express their own views and to have their voice heard. I am delighted to be part of this day which will offer the delegates opportunities to work and socialise together - and I look forward to
acting on the ideas that are shared.”

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