Students, staff, parents and special guests gathered at Biddenham School for the partnership launch of two major projects with the University of Bedfordshire.
The two projects are the school’s £1.1m fundraising appeal to create a ‘Student Parliament and Citizenship Centre’ and the launch of Biddenham Parliamentary Society, which is being developed during this academic year in advance of the grand opening of the new building in September 2019.
Opened by Shannon Hussain, former head girl at Biddenham and recent 1st class honours graduate from University of Bedfordshire, the event heard Bill Rammell, the university’s vice chancellor commit himself wholeheartedly to the partnership project.
He drew particular attention to the role of Dr Neil Hopkins at the university and his commitment to the five-year research project that the initiative involves. He also expressed his willingness to speak in the new parliament building about the importance of politics in national life.
Ben Pearson, Bedford Borough’s chief education officer, also spoke to the gathering and expressed the local authority’s full support for what he called this important and inspiring development. In his discussions with students, staff and parents at the reception afterwards, he was keen to stress how the project’s three aims of enhancing achievement, improving career prospects and strengthening democracy were vitally important to a well-rounded education.
Mike Berrill, executive principal at the school and project manager for this new initiative, spoke in detail about how it had been the students themselves who had been the inspiration for this development.
He explained how the creation of the Student Forum at the school in 2012 had adopted a new ‘open’ approach to developing the ‘student voice’ and democracy in education. He outlined the impact this group was having on the school, which had culminated earlier in year with their winning the national ‘Speaker’s School Action Award’.
But, more importantly, he emphasised the educational impact in terms of engagement, enrichment and achievement that membership of this group was having upon the students. He explained how the new Parliamentary Society was an attempt to scale up this impact from 25 to 125 students over the coming years and thereby further enhance the culture of engagement and achievement at the school.
Headteacher David Bailey concluded proceedings by encouraging those guests from neighbouring schools, which included the headteachers from Bedford School, Edith Cavell, Great Denham, Livingstone, Pinchmill and Westfield to become involved and use the debating chamber when the new building was complete.
Visit ‘help-build-our-school-parliament.uk’ or call 01234 342521 and ask for a project launch brochure.