We met with Valerie Vaz, MP for Walsall South and a member of the Labour Party, to get her top tips on how to teach your child all about the, often daunting, world of politics…
The weekly banter between the former Prime Minister, David Cameron, and former Leader of the Opposition, Ed Miliband, at Prime Minister’s Question Time is for many people the highlight of British politics. But there is much more to politics than the weekly exchange. And getting our children to understand what politics means to them will encourage them to understand why and how political decisions are made, from whether we go to war and how our taxes are spent.
One of the best ways to understand how things work is to see them in action. You can ask your child’s teacher to contact the Education Service to book a visit to Parliament where the whole class can tour this famous building. The history of Parliament and process of legislation is explained. Children can meet their MP and, in my experience, are inspired by the architecture of the House of Commons and Lords.
Or, you can contact your MP who can book a free tour for the family. The tour is given by knowledgeable tour guides who delve into the history of Parliament and bring it alive. And if you are near Westminster, you can just drop in and you will be shown to the public gallery where you can sit in on a debate or Ministers’ Questions.
Stage a mock debate
Last year during Parliament Week, I visited a school and suggested to a class that they prepare a topic for debate. We arranged the chairs to resemble the Chamber, facing each other in rows. The topic was “Should there be free milk in schools?” There was a proposer and then a speaker against. We opened the debate up to the floor and then a closing speech against and a closing speech in favour. I then made the children vote by walking through a “lobby” – the Aye lobby and the No lobby. Why not ask your child to try this at school?
Put pen to paper
Another good way to engage the children is to get them to write to their local MP on an issue that is bothering them and hopefully this should elicit a response.
To find out who your MP is go to Find your MP
Why not try Val’s short quiz, to get them learning about our political system in a fun way? Click on the next page to try the quiz…