2016 has seen some important debates in Europe and America. In Britain, there was a referendum on membership of the European Union and in America there was a Presidential election. For the children of Year 5 these debates may well shape their future, so it is important that they begin to understand the process and values of democracy.
We have discussed the meaning of British Values; democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs and for those without faith. After investigating the reasons put forward by the campaigns to leave the EU and to remain part of the EU, the children held their own referendum on the issue. Later, we explored the policies put forward by the candidates in the US Presidential contest and again held our own ballot. Our votes on these matters were interesting, but some children began to raise questions about why children are not allowed to vote.
Following this theme, we learnt about the development of democracy in the Ancient Greek city states. A lot of the principles we still use today in the way we run our country were developed in Greece more than 2000 years ago. However, we did find out that many more people were not allowed to vote back then, including women. Children were not allowed to vote and in many cities, they had to join the army when they were as young as 8 years old.
We also found out that some debates take a long time to be resolved. The British Museum has on display a group of marble stone statues and carvings. These are some of the most important sources of primary evidence about how the people of the ancient Greek city of Athens lived. They are referred to as the Elgin Marbles because Lord Elgin took them from Athens and brought them to England. There are many reasons why the statues should stay in England but the Greek government would like them returned to Athens, and there are good reasons for that to happen also. We debated the issue and then decided to write to the British and the Greek governments to persuade them to find a way to resolve the dispute.
These debates have been fun and the children of Year 5 have begun to see how important decisions are made.