On Thursday 15th June, we took the school council to London for a tour of Parliament and a People's Parliament workshop. We also managed to fit in a Riverboat cruise along the Thames, a walking sightseeing tour including Whitehall, the Cenotaph, Downing Street, Horseguards, St James' Park and Buckingham Palace. We ended the day with a trip on the London Eye, but not before we had a surprise......
After a very early start, we arrived at Euston and then took the (very packed) tube (squashed like sardines!) to Westminster Station.
We emerged into the bright sunlight and were faced with one of the most familiar London landmarks. Did you know that the tower is actually called Elizabeth Tower, and Big Ben is the name of the bell that it houses? We then made our way across Westminster Bridge to the pier at the London Eye.
Sitting on the top deck for an unobstructed view, we set off on the riverboat cruise of the Thames. We travelled past the Palace of Westminster and saw Traitor's Steps Prison, from where those found guilty of treasonous crimes were taken to Traitor's Gate at the Tower for beheading! We sailed past St Paul's Cathedral, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, the Shard, City Hall - the office of the Mayor of London, and the Tower of London, before passing under Tower Bridge for the return journey.
Once the cruise had ended, we went on a walking sightseeing tour. We walked down Whitehall and saw the Cenotaph and the Monument to the Women of World War II. We stopped for a while at Downing Street as we'd been told the Prime Minister, Theresa May, had just finished a Cabinet meeting and would be leaving shortly, but we didn't manage to catch a glimpse of her. We then passed through Horse Guards and had lunch in St James' Park before walking down to Buckingham Palace, through Green Park and hopping on the tube (the children were getting good at this now!) back to Westminster.
It was then time for the main event: the tour of Parliament and our workshop. After we had been through airport-style security, we were taken into Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the building erected in 1097. The wooden roof of the hall is over 600 years old and was ordered by King Richard II - it is decorated with angels holding shields adorned with his crest to illustrate his 'divine right to rule'. This hall has seen many historic events including the trials (and sentencing to death) of Guy Fawkes and King Charles I, speeches made by Queen Elizabeth II, Neslon Mandela and Pope Benedict, and the lying in state of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Sir Winston Churchill. The photos below also show a stained glass window installed a couple of years ago for the Diamond Jubilee, and a piece of modern artwork to represent the suffragette movement.
The next stop on our tour took us into St Stephen's Hall and moving on from there we were able to peek into the House of Lords. We were not able to enter the chamber as preparations were being made for the State Opening of Parliament due within the next week, but we were able to see the two thrones which Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip will sit on for the Queen's Speech. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photographs of either chamber. We were then taken (past Judge Rinder who gave us a big hello and a wave!) up into the public gallery of the House of Commons. From there we were able to see an MP being sworn in in front of the Rt Hon John Bercow MP, the Speaker of the House. We heard that the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, was just finishing a meeting and we rushed to try and catch him but missed him by minutes! We did see Harriet Harman (Acting Leader of the Opposition in 2015) being interviewed though.
Our tour was followed by a workshop on Peoples Parliament, which highlighted the struggles of the Suffragettes and how, through protest, women won the right to vote. We discussed how hearing the views of everyone is important, and how we reflect that in school through our School Council.
We then had a surprise visitor, Jim McMahon MP, our local Member of Parliament. Jim sat and talked to us about Oldham and what was important to the children in our area. He then took us on a special tour and we were lucky enough to see places that ordinary members of the public don't usually get to see. We visited the chamber of the House of Commons, and although we were not allowed to sit on the benches, we got to stand next to the Speaker's chair and the children got to stand where the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition stand at the despatch boxes when they debate! We then visited the library and the terrace overlooking the Thames.
Jim then led us through the tunnel to Portcullis House where MPs have their offices. He left us for a few minutes and then came back to say that Jeremy Corbyn had invited us up to his office to meet with us! We went into the Shadow Cabinet meeting room and first met his Private Secretary who gave all the children posts in the Shadow Cabinet. We then went on the balcony to have a look at the wonderful view. Then Mr Corbyn came in and spent about twenty minutes talking with the children. He expressed his sadness over the fire at Grenfell Tower and then asked the children about the work of our school council and showed great interest in our school and how we use democracy to make decisions.
Our final stop of the day was the London Eye. We had an amazing view of London landmarks and it rounded the day off perfectly. Two tube rides and a return train journey and we were all back home, tired but extremely happy. What a fantastic day out!