2014 was the tenth year of the History of Parliament’s schools competition. As I’m sure you know, every year we run two competitions, one for A level students and one for Key Stage Three (KS3) students (11-14 year olds) – details of how to enter this year’s competition also in this post!
Our 2014 winners were Matthew Pearson (Salesian College, Hampshire) at KS3 and Alan Petri (Manchester Grammar School) at A level. Congratulations to them both!
Our KS3 competition focused on the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Students were asked to imagine that they were an MP on 3 August 1914, and to write a speech in response to the Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, who had just called on Britain to enter the war on the side of France and Russia. The judges, who included staff from the History of Parliament, Parliament’s Education Service and the Parliamentary Archives, found it very difficult to choose a winner amongst some very good entries. However, they were impressed by Matthew’s good historical knowledge (especially in placing the speech in the precise historical moment) and the fluency of his writing. Matthew’s speech supported British entry to the war, arguing that it would be ‘the height of dishonesty, disrespect and disloyalty to stand aside at Europe’s time of great peril’.
Mathew won a £75 prize in book tokens, which was presented to him by the Rt. Hon. Baroness D’Souza, Lord Speaker, in the River Rooms, House of Lords after a tour of Parliament (organised with the help of Parliament’s Education Service).
As usual, our A level competition asked pupils to write an essay on a subject of the candidate’s own choice related to the parliamentary or political history of Britain and Ireland. We again had a very high standard of entries, and this year’s judges included History of Parliament staff and members of the Historical Association. Alan’s essay asked ‘To what extent can Margaret Thatcher be seen as the architect of Scottish and Welsh devolution?’ Alan surveyed various issues around the issues of devolution, including the unpopularity of Thatcher’s economic policies in Wales and Scotland; the discovery of North Sea oil; reforms of local government and the ‘democratic deficit’ caused by Thatcher’s success in England but unpopularity in Scotland and Wales. He finally concluded that Thatcher was the ‘unwittingly’ the architect of devolution thanks both to her success in winning elections in the UK without much support in Scotland and Wales, and also her ‘failed’ policies such as the poll tax. The judges were impressed by Alan’s choice of topic, discursive writing-style and thought-provoking arguments.
Alan won a prize of £100 prize, which was also presented by the Rt. Hon. Baroness D’Souza, Lord Speaker, in the River Rooms, House of Lords, last week.
We’re delighted also to announce that details of this year’s competitions have now been announced! For our A level competition we will again ask candidates to write essays on a subject of the candidate’s own choice related to the parliamentary or political history of Britain and Ireland. The closing date will again be after the summer holidays to give pupils currently studying for their GCSEs the opportunity to enter. Full details and rules are available here.
This year’s KS3 competition will be based on our new materials on Political Reform. These resources include specially-written articles which explore how Britain changed from a country where political power was held by a few privileged people to one much more democratic – at least if you were a man! We’re especially pleased to be able to tell teachers that the resources include a full scheme of work to accompany the materials.
Our competition this year is drawn from the activities in this scheme of work. There are two options, one asking students to write a news report on events at the ‘Peterloo’ massacre in Manchester, 1819, or alternatively we would like students to write a news report on the Chartist movement.
Prizes remain the same, so if you would like to join us next year in Westminster, why not have a go? Good luck to you all!