Year 10 students at Haven High Academy in Boston were treated to a unique form of political engagement last Friday [15th February], taking part in a ‘digital surgery’ with their MP Matt Warman.
The video conference brought Matt directly into their classroom, where they discussed topics as wide ranging as Brexit, potential ward closures at Pilgrim Hospital, mental health, and whether the school day should start at 10am.
Digital surgeries are 45 minute to one hour long video conferences between politicians and their student constituents, and are one of the key components of social enterprise The Politics Project’s Digital Surgeries programme. The Digital Surgeries programme is a political literacy initiative run in schools across the UK that equips students with knowledge, skills and confidence to engage in politics and in their local communities. The programme is designed to build trust between young people and politicians through letting them cut through the noise and have direct conversations about issues that matter.
Politicians taking part in the programme include Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, Nicky Morgan MP, and Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Jo Swinson, as well as over 70 politicians from every UK-wide political party. Digital Surgeries allow politicians to connect with their student constituents wherever they are, meaning that MPs, councilors, mayors and MEPs are able to connect with the young people they represent even if sometimes hundreds of miles away from them when working in Westminster or Brussels.
Students at Haven High Academy had taken part in several hours of preparatory workshops in advance of the digital surgery with Matt Warman, which focused on improving their understanding of formal politics, ability to construct powerful questions, and their public speaking skills.
Reflecting on the digital surgery, Year 10 student Anam Rahman said, “I learnt that Matt Warman is a positive person and he respects our opinions”, adding that he felt young people engaging with politics was essential because “you need to know about politics because we are the future.”
Leony Ainsworth, also in Year 10, said, “We all believe that some things need changing and he [Matt Warman MP] is here to help us do it”, adding “don’t expect anything to change unless you get involved in politics yourself.”
Matthew Van Lier, Head Teacher at Haven High Academy, commented, “We would like to send a massive thank you to Matt Warman MP for his time today during the digital surgery. We had the opportunity to challenge him on a whole variety of current issues and understand the role of a Member of Parliament. This process of developing our knowledge of the wider world and then debating with our MP has been really interesting and we appreciate his time and contribution to our Academy”
Matt Warman MP said, “I am delighted that The Politics Project and their technology has allowed me to keep my appointment with Haven High Academy for a Digital Surgery, even though I had to be in Northern Ireland at short notice on Friday. The Digital Surgery provided a brilliant opportunity to engage with young people in my constituency about their hopes and ambitions, what concerns or worries them, and what changes they would like to see in the community. I’m very happy to have been involved with The Politics Project’s goal of building understanding and relationships between young people and their representatives.”
Director of The Politics Project, Harriet Andrews, added, “Massive thanks to Haven High Academy and Matt Warman MP for being prepared to engage in a new way through this programme. The students were really well prepared by their teachers and had fantastic questions that kept Matt Warman MP on his toes. We want to make sure that during their time at school every young person can have the chance to have a meaningful conversation with a politician and build positive relationships. We need to start the process of rebuilding trust in our politics.”
Haven High Academy students taking part in the digital surgery
- The Politics Project is a social enterprise that specialises in youth democratic education. They deliver workshops to young people and train educators using a variety of dynamic techniques, resources and events to increase the capacity of schools to deliver outstanding political education.
- Since being established in January 2015, the organisation has transitioned from being a regional Greater Manchester organisation to operating at a national level. The flagship Digital Surgeries programme uses technology to connect young people and politicians, enabling them to have meaningful conversations issues that matter to them.
- Digital Surgeries lead to real changes in local communities, and have resulted in students receiving support for their families after directly raising issues with politicians, successfully lobbying politicians to support action on mental health, and making positive changes on behalf of their school through bringing concerns about local sports facilities to the attention of local decision makers.