Cleckheaton pupils take fight for arts education all the way to Westminster

Youngsters arrive in London for their big day in Parliament.
Youngsters arrive in London for their big day in Parliament.

Youngsters from Gomersal Primary School in Cleckheaton moved politicians to tears after standing up in the Houses of Parliament to fight for arts in education.

Children from the school were invited to speak at a meeting in front of MPs and the aim was to show that although they are not yet old enough to vote, they can still have a ‘voice’ both in school and in Parliament.

Art teacher Mandy Barrett, who took the youngsters to London, along with head Melanie Cox, said: “It is important for children to realise how our country is governed, how politicians make decisions and how they find out what is going on in the country.

“Our school champions the arts subjects which we believe is important for our children.

“Education should not purely be about Reading, Writing and Maths - the creative subjects play a significant role in developing the whole child. Children need to have the opportunity to explore in a creative way.

“Children within our school receive this opportunity in our art room and throughout the rest of the curriculum in their classrooms.”

Pupils from Gomersal Primary School with Batley & Spen MP Tracy Brabin.

Pupils from Gomersal Primary School with Batley & Spen MP Tracy Brabin.

Six members of the school’s arts council - Matilda Finn, William Nicholson, Eva Carey, Samuel Ashton, Grace Quinn and Harriet Clark - were invited to speak in the All-Party Parliament Group for Art, Craft and Design in Education.

They were asked to share why the school had an student-run Arts Council, what it does, what it has achieved and what the hopes are for the future. MPs listened to their words, clapped, cheered and answered their questions.

“They thoroughly enjoyed the experience and learnt a lot about politics and democracy throughout the process,” said Mrs Barrett.

“They wrote their own speeches and spent time rehearsing - even to the pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

There can’t be many nine and 10-year olds that can say they moved politicians to tears in Parliament.

Mandy Barrett

Ahead of the meeting, the youngsters met Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin in the central lobby in Parliament.

She gave them advice bout speaking in debates, listened carefully to the children and discussed why she believes art is important in education due to her own experiences at school.

During the APPG meeting, one pupil, Eva, was brave enough to ask a question to the BBC journalist Branwen Jeffreys about funding cuts and the decline of arts in secondary schools.

Some people in the room were moved to tears while listening to the children speak.

Pupils Matilda Finn, William Nicholson, Eva Carey, Samuel Ashton, Grace Quinn and Harriet Clark in the Houses of Parliament.

Pupils Matilda Finn, William Nicholson, Eva Carey, Samuel Ashton, Grace Quinn and Harriet Clark in the Houses of Parliament.

Mrs Barrett added: “There can’t be many nine and 10-year olds that can say they moved politicians to tears in Parliament.”

Ms Brabin accompanied the pupils to the public gallery to watch a debate in the House of Commons where they saw the MPs at work - they even had a wave from the Speaker, the Rt Hon John Bercow - before visiting the House of Lords public gallery to hear their debate too.

Ms Brabin, who was on hand to offer guidance and support to the children, said: “I was seriously proud to introduce Gomersal Primary’s Arts Council in Parliament.

“Working with schools is one of the most enjoyable parts of my job and it’s double the pleasure when it involves a school on my doorstep.

“Matilda, William, Eva, Samuel, Grace and Harriet gave such passionate speeches and genuinely moved the MPs present with their heartfelt, articulate and powerful words.

“Their love for the arts and the hard work and dedication of the school is to be lauded and it’s something we can all learn from when we look at formulating the classrooms of the future.

“The creative subjects play such a significant role in education and it’s critical that they are given the funding, support and attention they deserve.”

The youngsters’ actions attracted plenty of praise on Twitter.

Nicky Dewar, Head of Learning and Talent Development at Crafts Council UK, tweeted: “Such eloquence from year 5&6 @GomersalArt about why and how they have an #artcouncil.”

Mrs Barrett was at the House of Commons last month when she was selected to attend a three-day visit, gaining an insight into how Parliament works and looking round the Speaker’s apartments.