A week in the Houses of Parliament

Posted: 28th June 2017

Priory 6 opportunities

The Sixth Form is a time of preparing for the future.  Not just studying, but working out what you want to read at university, deciding on your university course, going to university open days and completing your UCAS form.  It can also be a time for work experience.  Many organisations and institutions welcome applications from students and this is a great opportunity to explore options and discover the different worlds of work.

One of our Priory 6 students, Serena Gray, Lower VI, took advantage of one such opportunity and here writes about her fascinating time on recent work experience in the Houses of Parliament – just after the General Election.

‘As a keen student of A Level politics, I discovered that the Houses of Parliament offers work placements for students aged 15-18. I duly applied and in late April received confirmation that I had been accepted for a week’s work experience in the House of Lords starting on Monday 12th June 2017. I was very excited at the thought of seeing Parliament in action from the inside but then the Prime Minister, Mrs May, called a snap election, which was set for 8th June, the week before I was due to start my work there and it looked as though the Palace of Westminster might be empty for my week. However, Parliament returned on 13th June so I was lucky enough to see and observe history in the making as newly elected MPs and the Peers took their Oaths of Allegiance, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Lords were elected and the Horse Guards and Queen’s bodyguard rehearsed the State Opening of Parliament, all while Mrs May struggled to put a Government and the Queen’s Speech together.

On my first day it was daunting to walk into a building with so much history and to be surrounded by so much security following the recent terror attacks, particularly since I was the only student for the week. To introduce me to the Palace of Westminster I was taken on a tour of the building, starting in the House of Commons. As I crossed the lobby, a lady approached me and handed me a badge and House of Commons Welcome Pack assuming that I was a new MP! I thanked her but admitted that I was doing work experience and was not yet an MP. This made me realise that although MPs may seem distant in the media they are just normal people like you and me and anyone can apply to become a MP if they want to. It was breath-taking to see the stunning architecture and extravagant interior and at times I couldn’t believe I was walking around inside a building that was a place of work for so many people.

The Palace of Westminster is a strange place for an outsider, with its long-standing traditions that can seem out of touch with the modern world outside its gates. However, despite the maze of corridors in which it is easy to get lost, it is a welcoming and interesting environment that has something different hiding round every corner. For example, the different colour carpets can help you not to get lost because the House of Commons has green carpets and the House of Lords has red carpets!

I was allowed to explore the lavishly decorated Lords Chamber where the Lords sit on red leather benches to debate, review and amend bills from the House of Commons. The House of Lords is an independent chamber in Parliament which checks government bills and edits them where they see necessary. It is filled with highly knowledgeable experts across many fields such as Lord Sugar and Lord (James) Palumbo, who founded Ministry of Sound.

I spent my week shadowing the Department of Facilities, whose staff organise a variety of things across the parliamentary estate such as office and meeting room planning, building work and repairs and the State Opening of Parliament, to name but a few. I could not have had a more interesting department in which to spend my week and I was struck by how enthusiastic and proud people were of their role in keeping the Palace of Westminster running smoothly at all levels.

I thoroughly recommend applying for work experience at the Palace of Westminster for any aspiring politics students. To be in the political centre of our democracy gave me a fascinating insight into how our political process happens from the grandeur and ceremony of the State Opening of Parliament to the elections of officials and the day to day running of the kitchens.’

Categories: Senior Sixth Form Whole School