The driving force behind the Motorola Youth Parliament Competition, now approaching its eighth year, is the former Tory MP Sir Gerry Neale who as an MP visited his daughter's school to talk about the work of the House. "They had the whole school together - 160 girls and two hours to kill. So I got them to turn their chairs to the middle and pretend they were in the House of Commons. We had the Speaker's procession with a lacrosse stick for a mace."
This worked well, and more schools asked him to do the same. "It got to the point where I couldn't manage it. I decided it could be better run by the Citizenship Foundation, and I managed to prevail on the kindness of Motorola for sponsorship."
Sir Gerry is anxious to reassure teachers under pressure that this is something worth taking on. "It can be assimilated into the system; the media and art side can be involved, and there can be projects along the same lines as the topic they are debating."
WHAT IS INVOLVED
Each participating school makes a 20-minute video of a mock parliamentary session. Prizes include computers and camcorders. The winners are invited to a presentation at the Palace of Westminster, with the opportunity to meet senior parliamentarians. This year's winners are also visiting 10 Downing Street.
NATIONAL WINNERS 199798
1 St Michael's RC School, Cleveland
2 Olchfa Comprehensive, Swansea
3 Dumfries Academy, Scotland
4 Maidstone GS, Kent
Motorola Youth Parliament Competition: The Citizenship Foundation, 15 St Swithin's Lane, London EC4N 8AL. Tel: 0171 929 3344