Year 11 students at Hove Park School were treated to a unique form of political engagement last Friday 8th February, taking part in a ‘digital surgery’ with their MP Peter Kyle, a video conference that brought him directly into their classroom.
They discussed topics as wide ranging as what inspired Kyle to be an MP, his lifelong struggles with dyslexia, and his views on Brexit.
Digital surgeries are 45 minute to one hour long video conferences between politicians and their student constituents, and are one of the key components of social enterprise The Politics Project’s Digital Surgeries programme.
The Digital Surgeries programme is a political literacy initiative run in schools across the UK that equips students with knowledge, skills and confidence to engage in politics and in their local communities.The programme is designed to build trust between young people and politicians through letting them cut through the noise and have direct conversations about issues that matter.
Politicians taking part in the programme include Mayor of Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, Nicky Morgan MP, and Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Jo Swinson, as well as over 70 politicians from every UK-wide political party. In Brighton and Hove, The Politics Project also works with Caroline Lucas MP and Lloyd-Russell-Moyle MP in addition to Peter Kyle MP.
Digital Surgeries allow politicians to connect with their student constituents wherever they are, meaning that MPs, councillors, mayors and MEPs are able to connect with the young people they represent even if sometimes hundreds of miles away from them when working in Westminster or Brussels.
Alongside their first digital surgery with Peter Kyle MP, students at Hove Park School will also be taking part in a surgery with John Howarth MEP, Labour Member of the European Parliament for the South East region next month.
Students at Hove Park School had taken part in several hours of preparatory workshops in advance of the digital surgery with Kyle, which focussed on improving their understanding of formal politics, ability to construct powerful questions, and their public speaking skills.
Reflecting on the digital surgery, Shannon, age 16 said: “I thought it was really good and gave me a proper insight into what politics is - I actually felt involved.” Varsha, age 15, said “I liked how it was direct and there were no barriers - I liked the way it was just us talking directly to him and it wasn’t going through anyone, so we could find out exactly his opinion was.”
Jim Roberts, Head Teacher at Hove Park School said “Now more than ever, it is so important that students connect with politics and politicians. I am hoping that the experience this morning will inspire them to keep asking those important questions of those elected to represent them.”
Peter Kyle MP commented “I love visiting local school, meeting students, and bringing them up to parliament. But all of that takes a lot of organising. So being beamed into a classroom and having a fantastic chat with students at Hove Park was the perfect. Students were brilliantly engaged and asked some really tough and insightful questions. The conversation felt really natural despite it being electronic. I’d love to make this a regular part of how an MP makes themselves accessible, I’ll certainly jump at the chance to make it a regular part of the way I engage with our community”
Harriet Andrews, Director of the Politics Project added "Massive thanks to Hove Park School and Peter Kyle MP for being prepared to engage in a new way through this programme. The students were really well prepared by their teachers and had fantastic questions that kept Peter Kyle MP on his toes. We want to make sure that during their time at school every young person can have the chance to have a meaningful conversation with a politician and build positive relationships. We need to start the process of rebuilding trust in our politics."