Around 70 of the brightest young minds from state and independent schools across the North descended on Barnard Castle School for a day-long conference on preserving democracy.
Against a national backdrop which sees up to 40 percent of society turning away from democracy, in favour of ‘chaos and authoritarianism’, students from across the Tees Valley have placed themselves at the forefront of moves to turn the tide.
The Democracy in Education conference was supported by the RSA – the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Joining the RSA in the workshop were students from Teesdale School, Barnard Castle, Prior Pursglove, Guisborough, Hartlepool Sixth Form, New College Durham, Bede Sixth Form, Stockton, Durham School and Yarm School.
David Cresswell, deputy head at Barnard Castle School, became a fellow of the RSA after speaking at its annual meeting, earlier this month. He said: “The aim was to come together as a community of problem-solvers, to draw out students’ ideas and turn them into action, to unite people and solve the challenges of our time, and to create a world where everyone is able to participate in creating a better future.”
The schools provided six of their most energetic, driven, creative and altruistic students who were challenged to develop a raft of ideas and a 90-second video that could be taken back to their peers, following the theme ‘a Manifesto for a 21st Century Democracy’.
They heard from speakers on democracy, including a video call from Adam Cronkright, author of Putting Everyday Democracy into Practice, who works with students in Bolivia, America and Canada to develop democratic thinking. Filmmaker Sophie Wardle offered advice on scripting, shooting and editing their video.
Barnard Castle School sixth former, 16-year-old Emily Kelly, said: “This has been a fantastic experience which has given us the chance to think and get involved with a room full of switched-on individuals.”
Students will work on a democracy action plan, which will be reviewed by the Tees Valley Sixth Form Democracy Council, before presenting their experiences of the programme to RSA London.
Interested schools and colleges are being urged to get in touch to join the project at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Words by Riana Dixon