Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Meeting with Lynne Featherstone Undersecretary of State at the Department for International Development

‘We were thrilled to be invited to speak with Lynne Featherstone, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State at the Department for International Development along with other students from across the UK. We all wanted to ask the minister what the UK government is doing to make sure every child worldwide gets the chance to go to school.

The four of us from Ringwood School travelled on the train to London and kept busy during the long journey by making plans for the meeting.  We were joined by two of the global campaigners Katy Barrett and Samantha Kimberley. We were all travelling to London to represent half a million young people in the UK deeply concerned about the 57 million children worldwide who are missing out on education.

We were invited to Oxfam HQ for the morning, with the meeting with Lynne Featherstone scheduled for the afternoon. The primary objective at Oxfam was to prepare a collage representing all the campaigning by Ringwood School and the other four schools. The collage was then to be presented to Lynne Featherstone. We found the thought of the collage daunting:  how could we summarise all this campaigning in one small collage? ‘Just do the highlights’ said Oxfam’s John McLaverty. Easier said than done!  Although we had an obvious edge with this wealth of material we were careful to let the other schools to show what they had done in their own brilliant campaigns.  We really enjoyed hearing about other schools’ campaigns; everyone got on really well and we decided that making the collage was fun.  There was room for everything and, as the photo shows, the final piece looked great!

Next came the high point of the day; our private meeting with the Minister. We went by cab to the Department for International Development, DFID, in Whitehall and were given smart identity badges. Sam quickly introduced everyone and our photos were taken with the minister together with the collage we’d made earlier. The meeting with Ms Featherstone followed and we enjoyed  posing questions such as, “How can we ensure that children who are disabled get the education they need?” and, after seeing how poor some teaching had been in Delhi, “How can we make sure that teaching is of good quality?”  The meeting was chaired by Sam.  He had the challenging task of keeping the meeting to time, and learning everyone’s name in order to call them up to question the minister at the appropriate time.

Ms Featherstone warmed to our questions and answered them as honestly as she could. We learnt a great deal about what the government is doing to try to get all children into education by 2015. She admitted that this goal would not be met!  At the end of the meeting we formally presented Lynne Featherstone with their collage and discussed each school’s efforts to help the Send My Friend to School campaign.  We knew Ms Featherstone had been involved in the campaign in her constituency so were slightly surprised to learn that at this point she seemed completely unaware that we had been to India on a visit to the slums!
Ms Featherstone said,”It was fantastic to meet such passionate children who care so much about the world they are growing up in and helping to shape. I was impressed by their understanding of the importance of education and their commitment to help less fortunate children across the world receive the education they deserve. Education acts as a ladder out of poverty and helps young people reach their full potential. Making sure children in developing countries get a good education is a priority for DFID and we are working with other countries to make sure that education is an important part of the new set of development goals to be agreed in 2015.” 

We left Whitehall with Zahra and Aaron from Kingsbury High and much enjoyed their company.  After photos under Big Ben, we swapped Facebook and Twitter details and went our separate ways. What a fantastic day. Thank you Oxfam and GCE UK for giving us this great opportunity”

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