Helping our pupils understand our democratic process.

Friday, March 15, 2019


The Harmony Trust makes a 10-point pledge to all its pupils as part of their character education. One aspect of the pledge is for our pupils ‘to be involved in a democratic process’. All of our 12 academies have an elected school council, to ensure all pupils have a voice and the opportunity to influence decision making in their academy. On Tuesday 12th March the school council from each of our 7 Derby academies were welcomed by Derby City’s Mayor and Mayoress to the Council Chamber to take part in a debate.

School councillors were set two questions to debate by The Harmony Trust CEO Anthony Hughes.

The first question to debate was: Does technology help you to learn?

School councillors provided a range of arguments for and against. They talked about a number of trusted websites and Apps they regularly use to help them learn their times tables and reading comprehension skills. Pupils also shared how useful the internet is to research facts to inform their writing. Other councillors felt that the internet can be very distracting as you can easily ‘lose yourself on the screen and not realise how many hours you have been on it’.  Some of the debaters were concerned that ‘social skills are lost because you are not talking to people’ and that there are times when what you read on the internet can be ‘fake news’.

Overall the debaters felt that technology does help us learn but it has to be very balanced and interaction from parents and teachers is very important too.

The second topic to debate was: ‘Over use of social media such as Facebook, Snapchat, What’s App. etc. is said to be causing under 12 year olds to be inactive and anxious and to worry a lot about how they look. To stop this, should under 12’s be limited to only 2 hours use of phones, tablets, laptops, Playstations, Xbox T.V. etc. each week’.

A general discussion followed over which pupils use social media at home and a show of hands indicated that over 90% of the children had phones and tablets which they regularly used to access a range of activities.   Only a small percentage had access to social media.

The school councillors discussed that they regularly use these devices for learning time when they have homework set and felt that if there was a two hour limit this should be split for learning time and leisure time such as watching T.V. /playing games/talking to friends/apps.

Pupils generally felt that 2 hours a week was not sufficient time as they calculated that this would be roughly around 17 minutes a day. Most pupils also shared that their parents were monitoring their time on devices and what they were doing on the devices. All of them agreed they would rather be playing or doing activities with their friends and families. 

The Chair of the debate gave the children a few options to decide on what they would consider to be suitable:

2 hours a week - only 2% of the pupils were happy with this option, 2-5 hours a week – around 5% of children thought this was acceptable, 1 – 2 hours a day - 90% of pupils were happy with this option – stating that they would use it for educational purpose and recreational.

After the debate the Mayor Cllr. Mike Carr who very kindly hosting the visit said ‘occasions like these help children to learn about and understand the civic role and what role they play as school councillors.  I was so pleased to be part of this debate.  The children were fantastic and a credit to the academies they have all come from’.

The Mayoress Cilla Carr, finished the debate with a closing statement ‘Technology has its place, use it sensibly and moderately.  Friends are very important and playing with them and going out and kicking a ball, going for a run, playing in the park is much more valuable’.

All the pupils said that they thoroughly enjoyed the visit and taking part in the debate as it had helped them understand how Derby City Council works. The next step in our learning about our democratic process is a visit to Westminster planned for the summer term. 

The Harmony Trust would like to say a huge thank you to Mike Greenfield for organising the visit and to the Mayor, Mayoress and Derby City Council for hosting this excellent opportunity. Thanks also go to Councillor Jonathon Smalle who represents the Chaddesden ward for his attendance and contribution to the debate.

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