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Upton Junior School

Upton Junior School

One Childhood - One Chance

Viking Academy Trust children on the election trail


Upton children have quizzed Labour candidate Polly Billington

With the General Election on the horizon, children at Thanet’s Viking Academy Trust schools are already getting to grips with the democratic process around one of the nation’s most important and far-reaching political events.

In the coming months the partner schools of Upton Juniors in Broadstairs, Chilton Primary and Ramsgate Arts Primary plan to invite candidates or their representatives in to school to get a feel for local education at work.

And it will also give pupils the chance to find out more from the various candidates about their plans and proposals for the area.

The first visit was by Polly Billington, a former BBC journalist who is the Labour candidate for the newly-structured East Thanet constituency that includes Broadstairs and St Peter’s, Ramsgate, Cliftonville and part of Margate.

She toured Upton Juniors, and chatted with children who are members of the schools junior leadership team, School Council and house captains, and who were chosen to represent their school and meet with their guest.

The election candidate shared a school lunch with them in the dining hall; and she also met with senior staff to discuss a variety of education issues in the area.

Michaela Lewis, Executive Head Teacher at the Trust, said: “It was a successful and fruitful visit. Polly enjoyed her time at Upton and praised the work of our schools. She enjoyed meeting the children who had some interesting and searching questions for her.”

She said she wanted to be an MP to help people have better lives, a desire she had from a child, and her biggest inspirations were Labour politicians Barbara Castle and Mo Mowlam. She added that climate change is one of the biggest issues she will tackle if she is elected.

She was asked how much time she will dedicate to schools and answered that while she cannot quantify the exact amount, her priorities for education include breakfast clubs for all and ensuring there are more teachers available through recruitment strategies.

Mrs Lewis added: “Our pupils actively engage with the democratic process every year with the election of our head pupils and our senior pupil leadership teams.

“With such an important General Election in the offing we decided to engage it right now so our children can build a picture of the whole process from the early stages, through the run up until voting day.

“It gives them the opportunity to fully explore all points of view from the candidates, to engage in debate and discussion about politics, and to get a strong feel of what the election means to them, their families, our schools and the wider community.

“We also plan to hold our own mock general election in the run up to the national event and our results will be announced before we find out how the nation votes – it will be interesting to compare and contrasts the overall results.

“This is an important part of our social history and citizenship learning. It will be educational, thought-provoking and fun.”

*Polly Billington Fact File:

A former BBC journalist, Polly Billington worked on the Today programme, Newsbeat on Radio 1, News 24 and the Politics Show and was Ed Miliband’s media director for his successful bid in the 2010 Labour leadership election.

She was previously the candidate for Thurrock at the 2015 general election. She was elected to Hackney London Borough Council in 2018 and has served as an Executive Member of SERA, Labour’s Environment Campaign.

She is a strategic adviser to UK100, a network she established in 2016 to help locally elected leaders achieve their net zero ambitions.

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