Democracy in action at Upton Heath

Newly re-elected MP for Chester Chris Matheson was at Upton Heath Church of England Primary School on the 17th January as part of pupils’ learning about British values.

Chris was able to talk to pupils about their mock election campaign, which they ran to coincide with the general election, and attended an assembly where he answered questions about life as a politician.

Questions posed by Upton Heath pupils centred on what Chris’ job involves, how long he has been an MP and whether winning the seat for Chester changed his life. Pupils also asked Chris about his hobbies and how he celebrated becoming the MP for Chester.

Following the assembly, pupils involved in the mock election campaign were able to speak to Chris in greater depth about their own election experiences.

At the time of the mock election campaign, year 4, 5 and 6 pupils from Upton Heath formed three non-political parties, Tomorrow, Transform and Progress, creating manifestos and campaigning on issues related to three key areas; global, school and personal. Campaign issues included poaching, racism and discrimination, deforestation, animals, recycling and plastic pollution. Children in key stage 2 were given an opportunity to vote, with the Tomorrow party winning the final vote. The children explained their policies and campaigns to Chris, with Chris offering his feedback and commending the children for taking part:

“If you’re not successful in an election it’s asking why did we lose and what can we do differently next time. What’s really important though is that you are giving people the choice. That is democracy. It takes courage to put yourself forward in that way.”

Teacher at Upton Heath Mrs Lewis who leads on British values said the mock election was an opportunity to give pupils a greater understanding of the election process:

“The project was a chance for pupils to experience democracy in action. This is about what’s happening in their world, in their lifetime. As well as learning about democracy through British values, the children were also able to work with children in different year groups, helping them to develop even more life skills.”

Pupils were extremely positive about the experience, saying the mock election helped them to develop skills like public speaking, empathy and responsibility, with one pupil commenting that he was able to adapt the delivery of his manifesto over time and another saying the project helped her to understand the election process better.

During his visit to Upton Heath Primary School, which opened its new school building in November 2019, Chris was also able to hear more about what the mock election team have planned for the future, including a new school parliament. To end the session, Chris praised the children from all of the parties for their efforts and had time for one final question about whether he wanted to be a politician when he was younger:

“I went to a small village primary school. The idea of being a politician never would have occurred to me. I actually wanted to be a fireman. I decided that instead of thinking I don’t like how that is done, I would have a go at changing it. Remember that whatever your age, you have the power to change things and to give your views respectfully and thoughtfully.”