Penrice at Westminster Palace

“It was an unbelievable, once in a life time day that I’ll never forget. I’ve become a lot more aware of what it’s like to be a politician and how much work they put in every day and how passionate they are about what they do – but that’s made me want to pursue it even more!” (Bella, Year 8)

On Monday 9th May 2016, five students from Penrice Academy were invited by St Austell and Newquay MP Steve Double to visit Westminster Palace, to learn about ancient traditions and modern politics, to see the Chambers in action and to put their own questions to politicians on the upcoming EU Referendum.

The visit comes after last year’s success during the 2015 Penrice Mock Elections.

Bella Taylor and Kordelia Majer from Year 8 and Ryan Taylor, Owen Thomas and Daisy Devlin from Year 9 represented each political party at the Elections last year, putting in hours of work outside of lessons to conduct research and spread their message to students and staff.

Mrs Stevens, who organised the Mock Election, explains: “Putting together a campaign from scratch is a huge task and these students went above and beyond with their effort to inform their peers. We thought there could be no better way to reward their work than to get them inside Parliament to experience real life politics.”

Travelling to London just for the day, the students were given a personal tour of Parliament by Mr Double and his Parliamentary Assistant, Chris Burley.

They were told the incredible history of the building, parts of which are over 1000 years old, witnessed the spots where US Presidents and the Queen have given iconic speeches, saw evidence of damage from World War Two and decades of political protests, passed through the doors where MPs vote and stood in the middle of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

They were fascinated to see the Cornwall Coat of Arms on the Throne in the House of Lords, as well as huge paintings depicting battles just off the Lizard and the Fowey Estuary. The tour ended with an exclusive lunch on the Terrace overlooking the Thames, before an opportunity to watch Parliament in session and to witness the Speaker’s Procession – the daily formal opening of Parliament.

Back in the 2015 Mock Elections, a representative of each party visited Penrice for a Hustings, where they were put on the spot by students, who then voted for their preferred party. Labour Representative Bella Taylor was voted in by her peers.

Bella said of her experience in London: “It was an unbelievable, once in a life time day that I’ll never forget. I’ve become a lot more aware of what it’s like to be a politician and how much work they put in every day and how passionate they are about what they do – but that’s made me want to pursue it even more.”

After the tour, the students met with Mr Double and Plymouth Moor View MP Johnny Mercer, where they put their own questions to them about the EU Referendum and its effect on young people in Cornwall and around the country. Other questions included the effect on the NHS, security and jobs.

The day ended with a tour of the Cabinet War Rooms and a walk up Whitehall, past Downing Street and Horse Guards Parade.

Mrs Stevens said: “I could not be more proud of these five students. Not only the way they behaved and conducted themselves all day but their confidence and enthusiasm for British Politics was inspiring, especially when it came to questioning the views of MPs right in the heart of Westminster. They represented their county, their constituency and their school brilliantly.”

A big thank you to Steve Double for inviting us and everything he did for us on the day.