In recent years as part of the citizenship work which we undertake with our students, and also the extended work of our School Council, we have organised mock elections to coincide with national events. This year with the EU Referendum campaign we went a step further.
All students held discussions with their form tutors using the weekly Form Time News presentation.
In addition to this West Midlands MEP, Sion Simon came into school on Friday 17 June to speak to our Year 12 students. Although the discussion was a little slow to get started our students soon got into the swing of things and asked very searching questions. Students such as Ben Harris, Jack Alwill, Libby Powell, Bridie Greene and Kieran Evans asked a range of questions on such key issues such as immigration, the impact of Brexit on the economy and the NHS. Even the staff got involved. Our Head of Sixth Form, Ms Simmonds asked a very interesting question. She quizzed Sion Simon on his assertion that the LEAVE campaign told massive lies during the campaign. He re-stated this, and said that the Leave campaign were lying about immigration, lying about Turkey and lying about the benefits Brexit would bring to the NHS. Ms Simmonds pressed him further and asked about the lies that the Remain campaign had told. Sion Simon said that they had not been telling lies, but he conceded that they had been exaggerating the truth! Unfortunately he did not explain the difference!
This was a lively debate, thoroughly enjoyed by the students, and Sion Simon commended them on their performance and depth of their questions. The format was very successful, but if we were to organise such an event in the future we would have a roving mic around the room so student questions could be better heard by all.
Following the debate Sion Simon told me privately that although he was firmly in the Remain campaign, he was expecting the vote to go the other way. At the time I thought this most unlikely, but subsequent events were to prove otherwise.
On the day of the national referendum all students in school were given the chance of participating in our own mock version.
The community of St Thomas More preferred to remain a member of the European Union by a majority of 18 votes (447 Remain versus 429 Leave). In percentage terms this was 51% Remain compared with 49% Leave. Nationally the figures were 52% Leave compared to 48% Remain. So although our result was close, it didn’t quite replicate the national result, but clearly shows how narrow the margin was between the two sides.
In this post-Brexit world of political and economic uncertainty we hope our politicians will be able to provide the leadership required to maintain national unity and prosperity for the sake of all citizens of the United Kingdom.