A Visit from Local Politicans

Three parliamentary candidates hoping to be elected in Oxford East and Oxford West and Abingdon in the forthcoming General Election addressed girls at Headington School before facing a challenging series of questions from sixth formers and scholars.

Headington regularly runs parallel elections alongside real-world polls to support engagement in the political process. Six girls are taking on the mantle of a different political party (representing Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Brexit, Green and Independent candidates) and have been debating, holding hustings and answering questions from girls and staff.

As part of this, the School extended an invitation to the candidates from the three main political parties in the two constituencies. Neither Labour candidate was able to attend and only one of the Liberal Democrats attended the event on Friday 6th December, meaning girls were able to hear from, campaigning for Oxford East, Louise Staite (Conservative) and Alister Fernie (Liberal Democrat) and for Oxford West and Abingdon, James Frederickson (Conservative).

The entire school turned out to hear the three candidates speak on issues including the NHS, Brexit, education, elderly care and climate change. Following a brief grilling in the staffroom from both teaching and non-teaching staff, the trio then faced Sixth Form Politics students, academic scholars of all ages throughout the School and some of the girls standing in Headington’s own election.

They answered a series of challenging questions from girls on issues including homelessness in Oxford, climate change, the relative merits of party leaders and their fitness to govern, how manifesto pledges would be paid for and tackling sexism.

Amelia, who is representing the Conservative Party in the School’s election, said: “I like to think I’m quite political but I feel I have gained lots of insight into individual parties’ policies which I didn’t have before, it’s been a really enriching experience.

“I felt really lucky to be able to meet the candidates and it inspired me to remain calm in our own debate which took place later the same day.”

Sophie, 16, who is representing the Liberal Democrats, said: “As the representative of a relatively minor party it has made me feel less disillusioned with the first past the post system – in this election at Headington, there is no tactical voting and every vote counts.

“I thought the candidates were great – it’s not often you can completely disagree with a candidate’s point of view but see that they are quite a good candidate – they were all very compelling.”

Isabella, also 16, who is representing the Labour Party, said while she was disappointed that she had not had the chance to hear from the party’s candidates, she had been in touch with their Oxford East candidate, Anneliese Dodds, who had provided her with information and advice on her campaign.

She said: “I have really enjoyed it, it’s been really useful in terms of addressing misconceptions about all the parties and what they represent. When I have the chance to vote in the future, I will know not to base it on what my parents say or what the media says but take the time to read the manifestos and find my own point of view.”

The vote will be held in school on Thursday 12th December and the results revealed to girls during PSHE lessons the following day.

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