Issue date: 12 January 2004

ISSUE DATE: 12/01/04

Over 150 North Bristol school pupils will hold a Children’s’ Parliament at the University of the West of England’s Faculty of Education on Wednesday 14 January.
Professor Ron Ritchie, Dean of the Faculty of Education, will open the parliament at 9.30am.

Miranda McCabe, a primary school teacher at Westbury on Trym C of E Primary School and School Council Consultant for the North Bristol Opportunities Network has helped to organise the day. Miranda said, “The Children’s Parliament will empower children by presenting them with an opportunity to identify issues that matter to them in their community and to debate how best to tackle these issues. The children will particularly look at Sport and Leisure issues and crime.”

Schools taking part include Badocks Wood, Blaise, Bankleaze, Dunmail, Embleton, Elmlea Juniors, Fonthill, Henbury Court, Westbury-on-Trym Primary Schools and Henbury Secondary School.

The school children taking part are all school councillors from the above schools and they will come together at UWE to form a Parliament. Each councillor will have their own agenda and will need to use debating and persuasive skills to get their issues heard and dealt with just like a real parliament.

To help the school councillors develop their debating skills they will be able to choose three from five workshops looking at sharing good practice; a brain gym workshop to develop concentration skills; school meals and how to improve them; a talk by the Wildfowl Trust from Slimbridge, (as the students are interested in finding out how to encourage wildlife, particularly birds, into their neighbourhood) and a session with the Schools Council UK that will train pupils with skills needed to be effective on a school council. The subjects for these sessions were selected by the children.

Gary Turner, age 12, from Henbury Secondary School, said, “I think the Zone Parliament is a great idea. It brings the schools together to communicate all their ideas and things that they would like in and around their schools. It lets all the children suggest what they think is best for the community.”

Key proposals for improvements to Sport and Leisure include a skateboard half pipe at Canford Park, basketball provision, a bigger pool at Henbury School, an all weather court at Blaise Castle, improvements to the areas next to Henbury swimming pool, more youth and drama clubs and safer parks with no motorbikes. Concerns about crime include muggings, intimidating gangs in the Doncaster Road area, car crime and joy riding, vandalism and graffiti, skateboarding in front of the Baptists Church at Reedley Road and kids asking for cigarettes at Crow Lane in Henbury.

Miranda told us, “The ideas have been arrived at entirely by the children at working parties held with two pupils representing each school. The parliament will give the groups the chance to meet up and to analyse and discuss issues with one another for the first time. We hope that this will give an insight into the democratic process practised in parliamentary debate.”


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