STUDENTS at a Darlington school have been getting a taste of politics as part of a national initiative being run by Westminster.
Longfield Academy pupils have run a school-wide vote to decide how best to commemorate the heroes of the First World War, complete with election campaigns and polling stations.
Pupils were asked to vote for their preferred remembrance project: a garden with silhouettes and crosses designed by each form group; or a six-foot cross inscribed with personalised messages.
Campaign leaders were selected from the school council and spearheaded the case for each option.
Emily Vest and Lucy Clennell argued for the garden, while Megan Green and Simran Kaur advocated for the cross.
Megan Green said: “It’s been more pressure than I expected. We all thought it would be no big deal who won in the end, but it’s become quite competitive.”
The two sides made their cases in school assemblies, before turning the school hall into a polling station, complete with registrars, counters, returning officers, exit pollsters, and student journalists.
Eleven pupils were away on a school trip on the day of the vote, so they sent in postal votes to ensure their voices were heard.
Jack Cornwell, a Year 10 pupil, cast his vote for the remembrance cross. He said: “We’ve learnt a lot about how voting happens and how to take part. I think it is important for everyone to turn out to vote because it’s how you get the chance to have your say.”
A total of 543 votes were cast, and Chief Returning Officer Rebecca Wise announced the winner as the remembrance garden, with 55 per cent of the vote.
The garden will be built by the school’s design and technology department, and students hope it will stand as a lasting reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by millions of brave soldiers.
The project was organised by Literacy Leader Mr Paul Cadd, who said: “Voting is something the pupils will do in the real world, and they’ve enjoyed participating in it.”
“Even though a lot of people might be disillusioned with democracy and politics at this moment in time, we’re trying to show them how vital democracy is to this country, and how important it is that they participate.”
Pupils will continue to learn about politics and the democratic process as part of UK Parliament Week from November 5. A group of students will also visit the Houses of Parliament to learn more about British democracy.
Campaign leader Lucy Clennell said: “It’s been quite an experience. When you see politicians on TV, it can just look like a big argument, but now I think there’s much more to it.
“It can just seem like a lot of shouting, but through this we’ve learned that politicians are real people who are very passionate about their views, and it makes me respect them a lot more.
“We’re really looking forward to visiting Westminster; it will be a privilege to see democratic debate in action.”