Lordswood Girls School sixth-formers take trip to the USA after winning prestigious politics contest
Written by Tristan Harris on August 29, 2018
SIXTH-FORMERS from Lordswood Girls School undertook a study tour to Washington DC over the summer after winning a prestigious politics-themed competition.
The trip was the culmination of a fully funded programme called Unite US run by national education charity the Transformation Trust.
Schools from across the UK were invited to take part in the competition and challenged to come up with a campaign students could run locally, focusing on identifying and bringing together any divisions in their local community.
Rudi Graham, Reya Malhi, Erida Osmani and Madihah Tahir competed against schools from across the country to secure their place as a finalist school, with four school teams selected to go on the fully funded study tour to Washington DC.
The students presented their Unite US campaign to a Transformation Trust judging panel, demonstrating their passion for their campaign and the impact it had had so far.
The four politics students focused their grass-roots campaign to unite young people in an effort to achieve more diversity in government and increase participation and engagement in politics.
Madihah said: “We wanted to raise awareness of the lack of representation in all levels of government for particular groups, and to try to increase the engagement of different groups with politics and political processes, especially among 11 to 25-year-olds, and those from a range of ethnic backgrounds.
“It is these groups who often feel they are not represented or listened to by the government today.”
Rudi added: “Ultimately we want to increase the range of demographics represented in government; for example, age, gender, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic background, education.
“But that’s a huge challenge, and we need to start small, by simply engaging those different groups in political issues and the political process.”
During the visit to Washington DC the students participated in a campaign school where they were given the opportunity to hear from American experts in campaigning and politics so they could use the insight to further build and plan their campaign.
“We listened to Kinn Badger and Christine Fang, who worked as Field Organisers for the Florida Democratic Party about their experience of the 2016 presidential elections and the future of the Democrats.
Erida Osmani said: “Prof John Moore who is the former Assistant Commerce Secretary under President Reagan, and current Professor of Economics at Georgetown University as well as advisor to President, explained how we could develop a career in politics.”
John Blake, head of education and social reform at the Policy Exchange, gave an introduction to American Political History and an insight into the political and historical context of the USA in 2018.
Reya said her highlight was meeting Cedric Richmond, a serving US Representative for Louisiana’s 2nd district and Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who gave an overview of the importance of race as a political issue in the USA.
“It was a main issue in our campaign and so it was interesting to hear from him about issues such as the representation of minority groups in government.”
The last part of the contest was on the study tour’s final day when the students drew on everything they had learned to pitch their campaign’s long-term plan – from the goals and how they would achieve them to how they would fund it.
The four students, although a little nervous, impressed the judges with their detailed and varied plans to improve the representation of young people in politics and their sound financial planning.
Andy Bookless, who runs a campaign company in the USA and one of the judges, told them: “At some point you girls have to realise that one of you needs to be the candidate – what is stopping you, as young women, from being the change, rather than campaigning on behalf of others?”
Rudi said: “To have someone who works with people who run for Congress day-in, day-out, to see something special in us and believe we could be the candidates who help change the face of government has been a real confidence boost.”
Mr Blake and also a judge commented on how impressive both the campaign had been to date, and the plans for the future.
Madihah said “To have someone involved in policy formulation praise our efforts was incredibly special.”
Amy Leonard, CEO of The Transformation Trust said they were hugely impressed with the calibre of campaigns the students presented but Lordswood and their Unify campaign really stood out and the passion of the students shone through.
Reya, Rudi, Erida and Madihah plan to continue their campaign, and hope to inspire other young people to get involved in politics.
“We want people to realise that young people are important and that their voices need to be listened to along with those who aren’t always represented.
“To young people, thinking of getting involved or wanting to make a change to their communities, we would want to say don’t let anyone stop you from making difference – your voice and ideas are important and people will listen,” they said.
The trip caps an all-round good summer for Lordswood Girls School where 74 per cent of year 11 students achieved five or more GCSE passes, including English and maths at grade 4 or above.
- The trip caps an all-round good summer for Lordswood Girls School where 74 per cent of year 11 students achieved five or more GCSE passes, including English and maths at grade 4 or above. 76 per cent of students achieved grade 4 or above in English and mathematics – 95 per cent in English and 76 per cent in maths. A spokesperson for the school congratulated students and added: “Well done and good luck to all year 13 students who are moving on to further study at HE institutions.”