As part of UK Parliament week last week, Heathfield Community College invited local MP, Huw Merriman, and councillors to listen to their students and their feedback from the Children’s Commissioner’s Big Ambition Survey.
The Big Ambition Survey is a national survey of children and young people across England. It aims to hear from children across England on what they think is important. In the lead up to the next General Election, the Children’s Commissioner wants to take children’s thoughts, opinions and ideas to decision-makers, to make sure that the Government hears young people’s voices on what they think needs to be done to make children’s lives better in England. Within College we conducted our own version, through PHSE lessons and as a Firefly Task, and sought to secure more immediate answers to the pressing issues experienced by our students.
On Friday 10 November, Heathfield MP, Huw Merriman MP of the Conservative Party and Minister of State at the Department for Transport, joined Councillor Christine Bayliss of the Labour Party and Councillor Rachel Millward of the Green Party, at the College, other political parties were invited. Huw, Christine and Rachel then responded to issues raised by the students who have taken part in the Big Ambition survey from the Children’s Commissioner for England Rachel de Souza.
Topics raised and discussed included climate change and the environment, the cost of living, children’s mental health, school funding and vocational education, local bike lanes and pathways. Students raised the topics for discussion and also brought a variety of different views into the discussion.
Students involved in the event came from a range of year groups and backgrounds, they learnt a great deal, engaged exceptionally well and enjoyed the debate.
One student said afterwards that: ‘We learnt about who represented us. The representative gave good answers and listened to what we said. It was a great event.’
Headteacher Caroline Barlow commented: “The range and breadth of topics raised by students was impressive, it shows they are well informed, articulate and willing to engage with decision makers both locally and nationally. Our visitors were equally engaged, modelling positive and collaborative debate. It was fascinating for students to understand the complexity of issues behind some decisions and the way in which politics works at all levels, we are very grateful to our visitors for their time and commitment to our students”.
Huw Merriman said: "I was incredibly impressed by the conversations we had with Heathfield College students today. They are well-informed and expressed clearly the issues which are important to them. I am very pleased that the College invited us in to listen to their views and exchange thoughts and ideas in such a mutually respectful way.”