Year 12 &13 Westminster Trip

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The long-anticipated Westminster Trip saw both of our A-level Politics classes visit two of the UK’s most prestigious political institutions and even meet with a former Secretary of State!

Despite having to reschedule in the Autumn term, the wait was no-doubt worth it as our eagle-eyed Y13 students were quick to start the morning with a photo alongside former Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the Rt. Hon. Matt Hancock MP.

The day started in Westminster Hall, with a tour of the Houses of Parliament which was kindly organised by local MP Julie Marson.  After learning about the history of Westminster Hall, the oldest site on the Parliamentary Estate, we toured through Central Lobby and began walking towards the Chamber of the House of Lords.  A building infused with history and traditions, it’s hard not to be impressed at how it’s charm and character continues to capture the public in an increasingly modern-age.

After touring the House of Lords, we returned through Central Lobby and back to Westminster Hall. Nathan, a former Leventhorpe student who had kindly arranged our tour on behalf of Julie Marson MP, met and spoke to students about the day-to-day realities of working for an MP.  Nathan presented students with certificates, on behalf of Julie Marson MP, to commemorate their visit to Westminster and kindly secured tickets for all the students to sit in the public gallery to watch live proceedings of the House of Commons.

Students watched the Speaker’s procession from Central Lobby as Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, passed into the House of Commons Chamber along with the Serjeant at Arms who carried the Parliamentary mace.  In the public gallery, students were able to watch first-hand the live interactions of MPs, Ministers and the Speaker.  The Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, opened the morning’s debate on behalf of the Government and students followed as MPs rose to their feet to ask questions and give speeches!  At times the atmosphere was intense as opposition MPs were quick to offer their scrutiny of the Chancellor. 

After watching and listening to a portion of the morning’s Treasury debate, students went for lunch where there was the chance for students to take part in a scavenger hunt around Westminster and Parliament Square - congratulations to Luke Urquhart in Year 12 who won the scavenger hunt! Following lunch students rounded of the day with a visit to the Supreme Court, the highest court of appeal in the United Kingdom.  Seated opposite the Houses of Parliament across Parliament Square, this neo-gothic building started life as the Middlesex Guildhall in 1913 before becoming the UK Supreme Court in 2009.

The afternoon began with a workshop on the Supreme Court and saw students debate a real-life case study of the UK Supreme Court - Lee v Ashers Baking Company Ltd and others [2018].  The discrimination case between Gareth Lee and Ashers Baking Company arose after the bakery refused to make a cake with a message promoting same-sex marriage, citing their religious beliefs.  Both Year 12 and Year 13 did well in maturely and respectfully navigating the contentions and controversies surrounding the case and fully considered both sides of the arguments presented by their fellow students.

Finally, the day was rounded off with a visit to a live and functioning court room inside the Supreme Court, where any member of the public can come and observe the court in action!  Students heard barristers present their cases before the UK Supreme Court and witnessed how the judiciary must consider and interpret points of law.

Overall, it was a packed day and students did incredibly well to remain engrossed in the range of tours, events and discussions!  I hope the day was one which will stick with them beyond their time at Leventhorpe and may inspire them to enter Parliament and the judiciary as MPs and lawyers.

Mr J Shepherd

Teacher of Geography & Politics