Introduction to Parliament and Whitehall
During my civil service days, one of the responsibilities I chose to take on was to educate members of the public that I came into contact with on how ‘the system’ functions. There are a myriad of academic courses that cover government and politics, but few focus on the practicalities in a manner that could be useful to citizens. Many academic courses by their nature have exams at the end of them.
In putting together a course, my research told me that I needed to get qualified first. The Higher Education (Further Education) Regulations 2007 require anyone teaching in a further education/post-16 setting to hold a preparing to teach qualification. I spent the second half of 2011 working towards, and achieving this.
Before developing such a course, I had to think about a number of things. The first one was what the problem was. Understanding the problem would give an idea as to whether what I have lined up would be suitable for solving it.
- Voter turnout and falling political party membership – it’s been falling for many years. This is a symptom of people not engaging in politics. This continued pattern could have serious consequences for how our democracy functions. (Taking the assumption that democracy is the best of a group of imperfect systems on how to run a country).
- Contempt for politicians and political processes – reflected by the MPs’ expenses scandal
- Lack of awareness of processes and accessibility – how many people know when and where to engage with both politicians and the political processes?
- Many existing politics courses are aimed at academics – I’ve not seen any locally that are aimed at a non-academic audience
- Citizenship courses are only provided in schools. Beyond that, formal teaching (unless you choose to study politics) for all things Parliament and Whitehall ceases.
No one off workshop is going to solve all of that – nor is any evening class series. But I might be able to make a difference to a handful of people that choose to attend. A series of evening classes would allow me to cover more content. It would also allow individuals attending to build up some sort of rapport with each other as the course proceeds. What they then choose to do with the knowledge they’ve gained and the acquaintances they’ve made in terms of engaging with political processes is up to them.
- Persuading a further education college to host such a course – easier said than done, especially as I’ve got no past teaching history on a course that has never been tried before
- Marketing the course – ‘adults’ is a very broad audience. Will I need to be more specific?
- Pitching the course – what level should I aim it at? Too low and it might bore people. Too high and I might lose their attention.
- Keeping the course on track – there is a huge risk of getting side-tracked in discussions and debates. This is especially the case with political parties. I don’t want to cover the merits of individual policies – just that broad policy themes exist.