As part of the celebrations for its 200th anniversary in 2003, the Parliamentary Press Gallery at the House of Commons inaugurated a writing competition for students, designed to complement citizenship lessons in schools.
The aim of the competition was to promote awareness and discussion of the values of parliamentary democracy and the political process. The winners spent a day in Westminster, during which they met the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Commons, as well as many of the newspaper and television journalists who cover Parliament.
This year's theme is the general election. With voters likely to go to the polls in 2005, entrants are invited to write about the policies they think the parties should include in their programmes and why these would be attractive to voters. Once again, the aim is to prove that young people are genuinely interested in politics by exceeding the 400-plus entries received last time.
Winners will be selected in each year group for each of the regions of England plus Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The competition will be divided into two year groups (S3-S4 and S5-S6 in Scotland). Students in third and fourth years are asked to write a letter to the leader of any of the major parties suggesting a new idea for their next manifesto. They should explain carefully why they think their proposal would be popular with voters. The letter should be no longer than 800 words.
Students in fifth and sixth years are asked to write an article for publication in a national newspaper suggesting how first-time voters can be persuaded to participate, focusing on political policies or voting procedures or both. With an appropriate headline, the article should be no longer than 1,500 words.
The closing date for entries is November 26. Details about the competition and how to enter are on the Press Gallery's website, www.parliamentary pressgallery.org.uk.
The Press Gallery competition is being supported by The TES, the Department for Education and Skills and the Parliamentary Education Unit, and sponsored by Westminster Explained.