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Year 12 & 13 Parliament Trip

On Wednesday 25th January, a group of Year 12 & 13 Politics and Law students visited the Houses of Parliament to experience the running of parliament and to develop a greater understanding of its history, functions and role in modern British politics.

During the day, we were offered a tour and workshop by the Parliament Education Service before visiting the Supreme Court in the afternoon. This was a great opportunity for students to see how their political system worked in action and gain an insight into possible related careers that they might want to pursue in the future. Year 12 student, Nura, has offered her reflections on the trip below:   

Visiting Parliament in Westminster and seeing the House of Commons, House of Lords and the Supreme Court was a wonderful experience, especially from the perspective of a Law student. Before gaining access to all three places, we had to go through an airport-style security check. Perhaps the most unexpected thing for me was the actual size of the rooms where all the action happens. On the television, it’s a lot harder to judge the size, and you tend to assume that such an important room filled with important people, discussing important things would be held in a much larger, much more lavish setting. The House of Lords came first, with an (overly, in my opinion) gold gilded wall and throne for the monarch, embedded with crystals and upholstered with red velvet and other embroidery. From the ceiling hung microphones and the rest of the seats in the house had red leather, giving the room an altogether expensive look to counter the size of it.

The House of Commons, on the other hand, was slightly bigger, with a larger areaPhoto of House of Commons for the public to view proceedings from, but a lot less impressive than the Lords. The seats were green and the leather thin and heavily cracked. Before I realised we weren’t supposed to sit on those seats, I got to have a momentary seat, and I can say that it was by far the most comfortable thing I’ve ever sat on. Like sitting on a cloud. Far from my expectations!

The Supreme Court had three rooms, each with their own aesthetic: traditional English, even more traditional English and a more technologically modern style. All Supreme Court cases can be heard in any of the rooms and they are all relatively small, needing seats only for the panel of justices and their clerks. There are also small pews and other seating arrangements for the public to view cases from.

I was surprised that during the time that we observed proceedings in the Supreme Court, we had difficulty hearing any of the case being discussed. It was a shame that there weren’t desk microphones to enable us to hear more. Secondly, it was disappointing to observe the lack of diversity with the justices being appointed. One nice feature, however, was on the third floor outside Courtroom One, where they displayed posters of the “first women” in the judiciary system. 

During the trip, we had the opportunity to complete a workshop which was quite fun, simulating the House of Commons and debating whether the death penalty should be reinstated or not. We began with a quiz to warm up to the debate, tying 9 - 9. 

Talking to our local MP for East Surrey Claire Coutinho’s Assistant was also quite interesting since we got to ask questions about how he got to that position and what his responsibilities were. I was also very excited to find out that a student from Warlingham did work experience with our local MP Coutinho, which sounds like a fantastic opportunity.

All in all, the trip was fun and insightful for Politics and Law students alike and I would recommend it to anyone studying these subjects, as well as to those with an interest in art and history. The decorations, statues and paintings were exquisite!

Nura, Year 12 Student