CHILDREN as young as five are effecting change at St Swithun’s Prep in Winchester through a new pupil parliament.

Using a system modelled on the British parliamentary structure, students have implemented positive change to the school and its impact on the wider community in areas such as the environment and charity fundraising.

Staff helped set up the pupil parliament so that students could experience democracy in action as part of their citizenship education.

Elected representatives from each year from reception to Year 6 form committees to debate culture, health, community, food, charity fundraising and ecological sustainability.

The chair of each committee takes proposals to a pupil parliament with the headmaster to refine the initiatives.

In line with British value of democracy, each representative was selected by their year group following lively hustings and a vote. The committee chairs who put forward the views of their constituents at the pupil parliament also elected a leader to the position of parliamentary secretary; or in this case, two leaders as the vote resulted in a hung parliament requiring a coalition to be formed.

Headmaster Jonathan Brough said: “We wanted all of our children, whatever their age, to understand their own potential to change the world into a better place through the power of participation and democracy. The pupil parliament is a practical way to make sure that every child knows that their view is heard and their opinion valued. They are very keen to engage because they know they have a powerful and relevant voice. We look forward to implementing some of their outstanding ideas over the rest of the academic year.”

Some of the ideas already planned are changes to the food and the acquisition of additional outdoor play equipment. Looking further afield the charity fundraising committee is shortlisting causes to support and working out ways to raise funds and the environmental committee is proposing how to reduce the use of plastics.

The two co-parliamentary secretaries were also invited to attend the recent virtual Children’s Parliament for COP26, a forum of 233 pupils aged 7 to 11 from all over the UK. Participants were able to debate climate change and vote on some of the pivotal questions relating to the United Nations COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow.

They said: “It was a great responsibility to represent St Swithun’s Prep at the Children’s Parliament but our own school pupils’ parliament has allowed us all to experience how satisfying it is to have a voice and the opportunity to make the world a better place through the democratic process. Letting people have their own say is what democracy is all about.”