General elections don’t come around too often, so much so an entire cohort at secondary can go through school and only see an election a few weeks before their GCSE examinations.
So how can teachers take advantage of the opportunity Theresa May has presented us with in June whether a school teaches discrete citizenship lessons or not?
Here are my tips for maximising the educational opportunities for the general election on the 8th June.
In the run up to the election
Get the students looking for information. Make it a standing homework to watch, listen or read fifteen minutes of regular news three times a week. Make time to discuss what students have seen.
Teach about ideology and the political spectrum. Tes has some excellent resources provided by teachers that can be used for key stages 3-5.
Create a space for students to share their ideas and be critical of one another. Try to make sure this is done within a specific set of ground rules.
Use the campaign material that the political parties are using. Manifestos, party political broadcasts, interviews (all form varying sources).
Pick apart the issues. This could be by policy sector (health, education, economy et cetera) or by political party (don’t forget the smaller ones - The Monster Raving Loony Party always raises a smile).
Regardless of your political opinion make sure you are including all ideologies and allowing them to be questioned and criticised equally. Have a bank of go to questions: "Why would that political party disagree?"
Look at how an election is run and include who we are electing and why.
A key aim here is to avoid imparting the notion of a presidential style election…it’s just not British. This could include looking at different notions of alternative voting/counting methods (first past the post, alternative voting et cetera).
Get in touch with your local representatives, not only will they like the free PR but your students can connect with the local aspect of our representative democracy.
On the day
On the day run a mock general election of your own...or better yet, and to save you time, get your students to do it.
Have all the elements of a real election in there.
Two to three weeks before: get all students to register to vote. (Use the tutor/year group/house system).
One week before (ahead of half term): issue polling cards.
On the day: recruit those students who heled up set up run a polling station or two within the school.
Don’t forget to set aside opening and closing times as well as counting time.
Make an event of the launch, running and results.
Get the local press involved.
After the election
Have a good analysis of the results (hint: number the polling cards).
Look at how different ages, year groups, houses, female/male voted.
Compare the school’s results with those locally, in your constituency and neighbouring ones.
Make it a candid and respectable event. Don’t allow gloating.
Try to think about the future. What affect will the results have on Brexit, health, the economy and so on.
Look at hypotheticals; what if we had used alternative voting methods?
For further advice and resources you could visit Tes resources or the Citizenship Foundation.
Shaun Townsend is a citizenship education specialist in East Anglia.