Throughout my academic career, I have spent time speaking at schools and sixth-form conferences. For over a decade I have spoken in schools as part of the ‘Peers in Schools’ programme. Started in 2007, it involves secondary schools being asked if they would like a member of the House of Lords to come and speak about the role of the House. Many peers participate and since the scheme started, it is estimated that we have spoken in about 2,000 schools to over 100,000 pupils.
I have spoken most often to schools in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, but have also covered schools in different parts of the country. In a number of cases, it is repeat visit. Last week, for example, I spoke to politics students at King’s School, Grantham (photograph top right), and later in the week to Year 12 pupils at Skegness Grammar School (photograph bottom right). I had spoken at both before and greatly enjoyed the occasions. Both were notable for the number and wide range of questions. They covered not only the Lords, but wider constitutional issues as well as current policies. The question that I had most difficulty in answering was the final one at the King’s School: who are the four people, alive or dead, I would most like to have dinner with? Took me ages to even think of one person, let alone four.
Some of the talks are to politics A-level students, sometimes to year groups, and sometimes as part of citizenship classes. Where politics is taught at A-level, it tends to be taught well, with enthusiastic teachers and students. The problem is with citizenship education. Some schools do it well, but as I have previously noted, there is a problem with resources and providing incentives for schools to take it seriously. I am delighted when I do get the opportunity to speak as part of citizenship education. I just wish it was more widespread.