Parliamentary outreach

Lord Norton

Recognising that the House of Lords does not get a great deal of media coverage, and as such its work is not well known to the public, the Lord Speaker, Baroness Hayman, has initiated an outreach programme to schools and other institutions. Given that she cannot accept all the invitations she receives, other members of the House participate in the programme.

One of the things that has struck me about the various visits I have made to schools has been the level of interest in the work of the House. When I spoke last year at Franklin College in Grimsby, I was told attendance by pupils was voluntary but they were hoping for an audience of about 50. About 200 turned up. The explanation may lie in the comment of the pupil who moved the vote of thanks when he said ‘We don’t get many people like you here’!

Earlier last week, I spoke to the Derbyshire Women’s Institute. It was a notably larger audience than I am used to: almost 600. I cannot claim to be responsible as I was only one of four speakers during the day. (The main speaker was the widow of the steeplejack Fred Dibnah.) Towards the end of the week I spoke to Putney High School for Girls and the next day Notre Dame College in Leeds. Both schools offer Politics A-level, so there were some informed questions.

What is noteworthy about these visits is not only the level of interest but also the questions that are raised. At the Derbyshire WI, the main question concerned Parliament and war-making powers. However, with sixth-formers, the questions I have been most frequently asked – other than the obvious one about Lords reform – have been about the representation of faiths in the House and about the diversity of the membership. The other question that is most frequently asked is ‘How did you become a peer?’ A variant of that is ‘Why were you chosen to be a peer?’ Whether or not I am the best person to answer the last question is aonther matter.

10 comments for “Parliamentary outreach

  1. 17/03/2008 at 10:14 am

    this is information is really good.for lessons like CT and RE

  2. Beccy
    17/03/2008 at 10:34 am

    I think Lord Nortons comments are interesting relating to the amount of young people that are interested in politics in schools. I don’t find it particularly surprising. When I was at school(only about 5/6 years ago) politics a-level was oversubscribed, the debates were heated and my impression is that young people are becoming more politically aware and active. Young people seem to be particularly interested in politics where it involves global issues such as climate change and where it can have an impact on their lives, for example through school councils. But, crucially, when old enough to vote, it seems that only between one in three or four young people actually do so. What is it that puts young voters (or perhaps the majority of voters, seeing as turnout in the last general election was 61%) off the electoral process? Obviously voting is not the only way to measure engagement and a healthy democratic society needs more than this to be effective, but it is our chance to tell the political parties what we think of them – why is it so difficult to drag ourselves to the ballot box and use our democratic rights?

  3. juergenkurtz
    17/03/2008 at 4:23 pm

    What a wonderful initiative! I’d be honoured, if you reacted to my thoughts on the interrelationship of education and economic development.

  4. 17/03/2008 at 4:28 pm

    Even though I live in a different country, you cannot imagine how greatful I am to see not only the interest of students, but, as the student so aptly put it, ” ‘We don’t get many people like you here’!”

    With so many pressing issues in our global community, it is refreshing to see that persons in foreign countries care enough to include young people. I wish it was the same everywhere

    I hope you continue to do well.

  5. 17/03/2008 at 4:36 pm

    As someone living in a different country, I wanted to tell you how refreshing it is to have you care about students and the global community in general. As the student you mentioned so aptly put it,”‘We don’t get many people like you here’! ‘

    There are so many pressing issues that invole the world not as separate entities, but as a whole. I only wish those in other countries felt the same as well.

    Please continue the good work and thanks for starting this outreach. It is what we needed!

  6. 17/03/2008 at 4:49 pm

    Very interesting initiative. I have put you up for inclusion in the ‘stumbleupon’ community, under ‘politics’ and ‘blogging’. This will, hopefully, drive even more traffic to your site. Stumblers are an interesting bunch. You have also been ‘featured’ today on WordPress’s Dashboard as Today’s HAWT POST so, GET READY, the world is watching & listening … Very best. Best foot forward and all that….

  7. 17/03/2008 at 4:52 pm

    p.s. Love your blog NAME – makes me kind of giggle and sit-up straight at the same time!!!

  8. Former BPLSer
    17/03/2008 at 7:08 pm

    Lord Norton,

    It is not surprising that your appearances in schools have been so popular and well attended. I remember reading your contributions to ‘Politics UK’ (the standard text for A Level Politics) and would have loved to have had the opportunity to hear you speak at my school had you been able to visit at the time.

    Hopefully the initiative will encourage people to take a more active interest in Politics in general and the House of Lords in particular. The Upper Chamber has been very active in sending poor Bills back to the House of Commons in recent years and people should take the trouble to learn more about the effect on the legislation we all have to abide by.

    Incidentally, I am delighted to say that I had the opportunity to hear you speak on any number of occasions when I reached that pinnacle of Political study and became a BPLSer (British Politics and Legislative Studies student for the uninitiated) with you as my University tutor. My interest in the subject you taught me a decade or so ago remains as strong as ever.

    I wish you all the best in this new endeavour.

  9. lordnorton
    17/03/2008 at 7:39 pm

    Thanks for all the comments. In response to my former student (Former BPLSer), it is worth reiterating that I and other peers are very happy to visit schools – and other organisations – to talk. Any school interested in a visit should contact Gina Page in the Lord Speaker’s Office, House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW.

    I enjoy schools visits, whether underaken in an academic capacity – talking about Parliament, the constitution and aspects of British politics – or as part of the Peers in Schools programme, talking about the House of Lords. I enjoy the interaction and the feedback. I have done lots of schools visits over the years and I don’t think I have had one that I haven’t enjoyed doing.

    So feel free to get in touch.

  10. lordnorton
    17/03/2008 at 8:47 pm

    I should add my thanks to Former BPLSer not only for for the comments on this post but also for his/her comments on Iain Dale’s blog!

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