Menu

Headmaster's Blog- Students and The General Election

Just over two weeks ago we had the General Election which followed weeks and months of debate, manifestos, campaigning and promises by all the main parties. After all the predictions and polls, I expected a hung Parliament, followed by days of negotiations and deals, before some sort of coalition emerged. A good job I didn’t place a bet, then! It’s been fascinating to watch the story unfold and, for me, to see the growing awareness and interest it’s attracting from our students.

Of course, a number of our students were eligible to vote in this year’s Election. Their excitement and pride in going through this important rite of passage was a pleasure to see, and a far cry from the picture of ambivalent youth which is portrayed in the media. We have throughout the campaign tried to instil in them a sense of civic responsibility and an appreciation of democracy. Earlier this year we held our own election - there were some highly amusing hustings - although I don’t recall the SNP having so much support! And of course, we were fortunate to be visited by the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Right Hon John Bercow, in March.

Just eight weeks ahead of the General Election, Speaker Bercow’s lecture was incredibly timely. I know that many young people feel disenfranchised from the political process and question its relevance in the 21stcentury. Indeed, our own Politics students thrashed out the arguments surrounding this issue in a Parliamentary-style debate, which Speaker Bercow chaired. The Speaker was able to provide a constructive challenge to this view, speaking passionately and persuasively about the difference which every vote can make. And happily, when it came to the vote, our audience accepted that democracy did have a place in our future.

Two critical questions were posed during the Bercow debate: should the voting age be lowered to 16; and, should online voting be allowed? As we saw in the Scottish referendum, lowering the voting age to 16 undoubtedly increased participation and, for the young people concerned, might have given them an experience which will help keep them democratically active for years to come. Looking at Bloxham’s 16 year olds, I believe many possess the maturity to vote responsibly; but I appreciate that is not the case for all! As for online voting, it is most certainly a possible way forward for the future. We all lead busy lives, much of which is managed electronically, and anything we can do to make voting more convenient should be considered. However, the public would need to be reassured that stringent safeguards were in place before accepting this reform. And while I would miss the ritual of the polling booth, I believe democracy needs to be flexible and responsive to the world in which we live today.

In the days that followed the election Nicky Morgan was re-confirmed as Secretary of State for Education. With this continuity, I for one hope we will have a settled period within the education sector, and time to fully implement the changes announced by Michael Gove just two years ago. This will best serve the interests of our young people.