CHAPTER 2: EDUCATION AND OUTREACH
13. Since the reports of the Commons Modernisation
Committee and the Puttnam Commission, Parliament's Education
Service has developed very significantly and its reach
has expanded rapidly. The number of educational visits to Parliament
has increased from 11,000 in 2005-06 to 36,000 in 2008-09.
Young people on Education Service visits
14. Following joint work, our Committee and the
House of Commons Administration Committee in 2007 published reports
Facilities for Educational Visitors to Parliament.
We recommended the development of a dedicated space within the
Parliamentary Estate for educational visitors that could accommodate
100,000 learners each year. Both Houses approved that recommendation,
and the Committees subsequently agreed a design for the refit
of the identified space. The Parliamentary Education Centre is
due to open in 2013.
15. The Committee looks forward to the opening
of the Parliamentary Education Centre, which is crucial to enable
larger numbers of children to visit Parliament. The Committee
will consider plans for the necessary ICT equipment to be installed
in the Centre in order to ensure that Parliament provides a modern
learning space for educational visitors and has appropriate facilities
such as video conferencing for distance learning.
16. The April 2007 House of Commons Administration
Committee report on educational visitors to Parliament recommended
further consideration of the case for subsidising school visits
to Westminster from more distant parts of the UK.
In July 2007, we agreed that the Lords should support a trial
educational subsidies scheme. A pilot scheme was launched in early
2009 offering a transport subsidy to state schools visiting Parliament
through the Education Service from areas outside the South-East.
In each of the first two terms covered by the scheme, the proportion
of visits booked from areas outside London and the South-East
rose from about one third to about two thirds. This balance reflects
the distribution of schools across the UK. In addition, the proportion
of visits from state schools has increased from about 80 per cent
to 90 per cent, reflecting the percentage of state schools in
17. The Committee welcomes the impact of the
travel subsidy, which has increased the number of educational
visitors from schools outside the South-East of England and from
state schools. We recommend that the House Committee should continue
the travel subsidy offered to state schools outside the South-East
visiting Parliament through the Education Service.
18. We received a number of very positive comments
about the Education Service (QQ 4, 178). The Service is working
to build links with teachers, schools and colleges and to tailor
Parliament's educational activities to those who learn about Parliament
in the classroom away from Westminster. Five staff in the Education
Service now focus on outreach to young people and liaison with
local education authorities. The educational outreach officers
work with schools to train and support teachers in delivering
the political literacy elements of the curriculum as well as supporting
members of both Houses in their own outreach work in schools.
In each of the last two years they trained 1,000 teachers across
Number of teachers and pupils reached by educational outreach
||Teachers and trainee teachers reached by the educational outreach service
||Pupils reached by the educational outreach service
19. A number of sixth-form students told us how little education
they had received in school on Parliament (QQ 176, 179, 184-85).
This gap was reinforced by comments submitted to our web
"I have a great interest in the Lords
and I have researched this off my own back; however I feel that
more should be taught in schools about our legislature, as I cannot
remember ever being taught such a thing during my time in education."
"I think that I know a fair amount about
the purpose and work of the House of Lords, but I had to search
out the information myself on the internet. There's no real education
about it in schools"
"I never had any school lessons of the
structure of the parliamentary system until I actively selected
that choice at A-Level."
"The only way to get through to young
people is by visiting schools and colleges, inform them, put it
in the curriculum as part of Tutorial."
20. The Committee commends the work of the
Education Service and welcomes the work that the Service is undertaking
in training teachers. We recommend that the Education Service
should explore ways to encourage teachers and the relevant curriculum
bodies to increase coverage of the House of Lords in the curriculum.
21. The Puttnam Commission recommended in May
2005 that "more should be done to enhance the effectiveness
of parliamentary outreach work" and called for "a greater
emphasis on outreach work".
22. Since the Puttnam Commission reported, there
has been a transformation in the way in which Parliament as an
institution engages with people outside Westminster. Four years
ago, Parliament had no outreach service. Today, the bicameral
outreach service operates across the United Kingdom to promote
the work of Parliament. Outreach officers work outside Westminster
with local networks and media, campaigners and non-governmental
organisations to strengthen the connection between Parliament
and the public. In addition, the House of Lords undertakes its
own complementary outreach work: the Lord
Speaker is active in promoting awareness of the House's
work, and many members visit schools and give talks to outside
23. We received great praise for the work of
Outreach. Novas Scarman, a social justice charity, said
that the service had "shown itself to be responsive, flexible,
informative and willing to engage with people on their own terms
as citizens" (p 147, see also pp 33, 86 and QQ 4-5,
109, 111-114). The Fawcett Society shared with us feedback from
ethnic minority women who had attended outreach events:
"Very informative and interesting; I
will now look on the Parliament website and give my opinion on
issues. I didn't know of this site before."
"The workshop was great with a clear
explanation of how Parliament works."
"I'm encouraged to learn that Parliament
has taken on the initiative of going out and engaging with the
24. People to whom we spoke about Parliamentary
Outreach stressed that one of its key strengths was that it operated
in the regions, rather than demanding that those wanting to know
about Parliament come to Westminster (QQ 124, 150-51). Similarly,
Novas Scarman stressed the importance of Parliamentary Outreach
working through existing community groups and organisations: "By
making contact with people through such networks, they can offer
workshops to a wide range of people on their own terms, on their
own ground" (p 147).
25. The Committee commends the work of the
Parliamentary Outreach service. The Committee is keen to see the
completion of the national roll-out. We look forward to the formal
review of the three-year programme and ask that this be presented
to the Committee in time to allow for appropriate long-term planning.
26. The Puttnam Commission also recommended that
"Parliament should hold more meetings outside London. Select
committees, for example, should hold more formal proceedings and
public events beyond Westminster." The outreach team has
already arranged meetings for Commons Select Committees outside
Westminster and offers the same service to Lords Committees. We
welcome the support that the outreach service offers to select
committees wishing to meet outside Westminster, and we draw this
support to the attention of other Lords Select Committees.
27. In 2006 the House of Lords elected Baroness
Hayman as its first Lord Speaker, and she has played a key role
in developing the House's outreach programme. The feedback we
received about the many outreach and public engagement activities
which the Lord Speaker has championed is excellent and stresses
the value of members operating outside Westminster.
The National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI) reported
how enjoyable they found it to have direct contact with members
as it 'humanised' the House (p 144). Debatewise, a non-profit
debating website, applauded the House's outreach work and called
for it to be expanded to engage with universities (p 110,
see also Q 208), and several comments submitted to our web forum
called for "more of the Peers in Schools scheme":
"the Peers in Schools programme is one
of the best ideas in a while, and I'd love to see more of it"
"Go into the schools, the younger the
better, how many schoolchildren have actually met a 'lord', especially
one who has explained the work they do, interact with the public,
and make it common knowledge that parliament is accessible to
all, not just a few."
"One initiative that might work would
be doing more of what I know some Lords are doing nowtravelling
around to schools and Sixth Form centres across the country and
talking to students"
28. We welcome the House of Lords outreach
and engagement programme, championed by the Lord Speaker. It is
three years since the House elected its first Lord Speaker. If
the House at some point reviews the role of the Lord Speaker,
we recommend that outreach and education remain priorities for
29. In our view, members are the greatest
ambassadors for the House. The Committee calls on more members
to participate in the 'Peers in Schools' programme and to talk
to groups outside Parliament. The Committee also recommends that
Lords members of All-Party Groups encourage those Groups to consider
how they could contribute to the outreach and educational work
30. The NFWI suggested that the House's outreach
activities "could be expanded by offering participants at
the regional sessions the opportunity to spend a day shadowing
peers in their work." (p 144) Similarly, the Hansard
Society suggested establishing "a bicameral Parliamentary
mentoring scheme to encourage a range of peoplefrom, for
example, the education and health fields, business, third sector
civil society groupsto spend some time in Westminster,
shadowing MPs, Peers and parliamentary officials. The scheme
would enable the participants to learn more about Parliament and
its work and to be a 'goodwill ambassador' for Parliament in the
future" (p 12).
31. The House of Lords administration already
offers opportunities for young people to experience work in the
House. The administration offers both a 'Sandwich Student Scheme'
for University Students studying for a degree in public administration
or a similar subject and week-long work experience placements
for students aged between 15-18. However, there is at present
no equivalent scheme for people to shadow the work of members.
32. We recommend that the House of Lords administration
should draw up options for a shadowing scheme to allow members
who wish to participate to have a range of people shadow their
Recommendations on Education and Outreach
6 1st Report of Session 2006-07 (HC 434), published
April 2007; 1st Report of Session 2006-07 (HL Paper 117), published
June 2007. Back
House of Commons, 12 June 2007 (Commons Hansard column 720); House
of Lords, 16 October 2007 (Lords Hansard columns 675-90). Back
See paragraph 99 of the report cited above. Back
A full account of the House of Lords Outreach and Engagement programme
can be found in Volume II pp134-35. Back