Last week, KEHS partnered with KES to hold its first-ever Political Awareness Week!
The week was put together by members of the Sixth Form Current Events Society with a focus on raising the political knowledge and awareness of students. Each day there were form time activities, lunchtime events and after school sessions, all focusing on the importance of politics in our daily lives, and how young people can get involved. Read on to learn more about some of the events that took place…
To kick off the week, KEHS students were treated to a Q&A session on ‘A Career in Politics’ led by Dr Ollis, Mrs Hargraves and Miss Evans who all have political backgrounds, and Upper Sixth students Alice Fenton, Hanna Kisiala, Madeleine Hope and Harriet Smith who are planning to study Politics at university. They spoke about their personal experiences with politics and emphasised that regardless of the degree you decide to do, anyone can go into this field. Students offered incredibly useful advice on work experience opportunities and the application process for studying politics at a higher level.
In the evening, students across the King Edward’s Foundation were invited to listen to Professor Barbara Krauthamer, Dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts at the University of Massachusetts. She spoke on the theme of ‘Race in Politics’. As a distinguished historian in African American History, she delivered an insightful perspective on the women of the era. She presented evidence including captivating photography of enslaved women, inviting us to think about how they were perceived by their owners as property and ‘rightful belongings’.She then looked at another side of black women during the heights of slavery in America where she displayed portraits of women standing at protests and movements, women wearing the time’s most fashionable attire, and women holding their grandchildren who were born during a time when the law forbade slavery. She was able to provide us with a powerful and lesser-known insight into their world, through the use of images depicting how black women perceive themselves, and how they wanted the world to perceive them.
KEHS welcomed Dr Elliot Evans, a distinguished lecturer from the University of Birmingham, to give a talk on the ‘Role of Gender in Modern Politics’. She highlighted that the way in which gender is identified differs between cultures and that this can create the impression that other countries may not be as progressive with their laws and thereby cause political conundrums. For example, gender theory was banned in Hungary in 2018 and Poland aims to change ‘LGBT ideology’ in order to align the country closer to right-wing political ideals. The talk gave a fascinating insight into the many societal factors affecting politics and enlightened us to the multitude of highly contrasting cultural views throughout the world, which directly impact the human rights of all individuals.
On Wednesday, Muntaha Chowdhury, Rohita Muthuvelu, Saran Bahia and I were delighted to host a lunchtime session discussing the ‘Role of Politics in British Healthcare’ to all aspiring KEHS medics and politics enthusiasts alike. Mrs Hargraves kindly introduced the talk by highlighting the long history between the British government and the NHS’ relationship, and also recommended a book called ‘The Five Giants’ for anyone wishing to delve more into the subject. We covered topics such as the structure of the NHS; the difference in healthcare systems between France, Britain and America; the impact of Brexit; the role of the Health Secretary and the management of COVID under Boris Johnson’s government. It was a highly informative discussion with lots of insightful input from the attendees who raised some important points about our democracy and politicians’ responsibilities amidst a pandemic.
n the evening, we had the opportunity to attend a highly stimulating ‘Question Time’ style event with a panel of politicians, composed of West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, Labour MP Preet Gill, Conservative Councillor Matt Bennett and Conservative MP Saquib Bhatti. Questions came in thick and fast from the audience on topics ranging from the handling of the COVID pandemic and influence of religion in politics to the role of the state and past actions of the government. Each panel member had the chance to answer, often adding personal experience to illustrate points and offering new angles on social, geopolitical and economic issues, and bountiful discussion was observed throughout. Overall, the event provided a fruitful insight into the workings of local and national government from experienced politicians and highlighted the importance of being politically aware.
At lunchtime, Dr Limm gave an invigorating presentation on the topic ‘What’s politics got to do with it anyway?’ He spoke about multiple political aspects, from the four most important places in London: the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Number 10 Downing Street, and the Supreme Court and spoke about the different core systems that run our country. We explored the definition and impact of politics, the election process, delved deeper into discussions of globalisation and had fun recognising influential personalities, including Cyril Ramaphosa and Angela Merkel. We are all certainly more aware of the importance of politics than before!
Later that day, we were very lucky to have Sir Robert Whalley, former Director of Counter-Terrorism at the Home Office and chair of COBRA, deliver an insightful talk on the civil service. He talked about his experience of working for the civil service and with politicians, and the critical jobs he had to undertake to ensure the smooth running of the country. We learnt about the positive and negative changes that have occurred in the civil service, and he offered an insightful perspective on the Indian and European civil services. He spoke further about the increasing diversity in the House of Commons and how politics can often take a huge toll on mental health. The talk was followed by a highly informative Q&A session, and overall it was a thought-provoking event that was thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended.
On Friday at lunchtime, we were treated by a visit from Old Ed Ruth Maclean Jones. Ruth left KEHS in 2012 and then went on to study PPE at Oxford. She gave an insight into what life is like at Oxford and what she learnt from studying PPE. She was able to directly hand out advice to our students about what to study in the future, and has already helped some people make up their minds about degree choices! Ruth spoke with great eloquence, was very honest and all the students were very much at ease when speaking to her. It was incredibly inspiring to hear about the success of an Old Ed and we were all in awe of all her amazing achievements. We can only hope that in the future we can leave KEHS and follow on to become as successful as Ruth!
The week ended with a highly stimulating debate between KEHS vs KES. The motion discussed was ‘British Politics is Irreparably Broken’ with KEHS proposing and KES opposing. Both sides argued their point eloquently and passionately, which encouraged points of information from the floor. These points considered topics such as whether a system of proportional representation would be an apt replacement for the current system in place. The tension rose as the topic of revolution was mentioned by the KES team, however, KEHS was supported by the audience and stated this suggestion was a dramatisation of the debate at hand. The audience interaction and participation were welcomed greatly and provided hope that in the future, the students of KEHS and KES will not back down from their beliefs, and no one will be afraid to ask difficult questions. The debate ended with closing statements from the two sides that were extremely well thought out and cohesive. Then came the vote where both sides waited to see the impact of their debating skills. I’m sure you will be glad to hear that KEHS won by a landslide of 80 votes to 18 and this concluded that ‘British Politics is Irreparably Broken’. Many thanks to all those who came to witness this debate and to Miss Williams for hosting such a wonderful event.
This whole week has been a crazy eventful whirlwind that went by in a flash. Aarya and I, along with the rest of the team, have had the absolute pleasure of organising this event, and the many hours of hard work and planning put in have evidently paid off. We are so grateful for the opportunity to express our avid keenness for politics, as well as being able to highlight to the KEHS and KES community just how vital politics is in our lives today. We sincerely hope that this week has encouraged everyone to get more involved and vocal about the issues that matter to them, and also found our events, activities and resources useful. The support and positive feedback we’ve received from everyone has been incredibly overwhelming and we hope that this is only the first of many more events like it to come!