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Baroness inspires students

STUDENTS have been inspired by a peer of the realm in an initiative designed to promote interest in politics.

peer3Baroness Harris spent the afternoon with Years 9, 10 and 11 students at The King’s Academy, Coulby Newham, giving them an insight into the workings of Parliament’s second house and dispelling myths about the nation’s life peers.

We are not all rich and live in castles,”

said Baroness Harris, who is deputy speaker of the House of Lords. “I live in a brick house in Richmond and my husband is a retired teacher. I was a North Yorkshire County councillor for many years.

Now, because no one in the Lords has primacy, I spend my life making deals as we scrutinize and amend legislation.”

peer1The visit was arranged through the Lord Speaker’s Peers in Schools programme, which has been running across the UK since 2007 and has so far involved around 50,000 young people in support of the citizenship curriculum.

Baroness Harris is a former chairman of North Yorkshire Police Authority and still has a particular interest in policing.

No one else knows much about policing so when we discuss it in the Lords they tend to listen to me, which is nice,” she told the students.

“What is important, I feel, is not necessarily voting with the party line; if I believe in something I stick to my guns.”

Politics teacher Jenni Yuill added:

Listening to Baroness Harris has really put paid to the common myth that the people in power are pale, male and stale.

“The students now have a much better understanding of the political process and the fact that the Lords are here to serve the public.”

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Prison education chief speaks to students

Students got the inside line on how prisoners in the Tees Valley are being educated, trained and helped to work so they can give something back to society.

Young people studying AS level government and politics and others with an interest in current affairs at The King’s Academy, in Coulby Newham, heard a presentation by Dr Sheena Maberly MBE, head of learning, skills and employment for North East Prisons.

It was the latest in a series of lectures for students by external visitors organised by politics teacher Jenni Yuill.

Dr Maberly, who has a Phd in chemistry and worked at ICI for five years, is responsible for the education of offenders at Holme House Prison, in Stockton, Kirklevington Grange, near Yarm, and Deerbolt young offenders institution, in Barnard Castle.

She explained that offenders are taught English, maths and IT as well as offered vocational training in areas such as horticulture, painting and decorating, white goods servicing and repair, welding, waste management and other trades.

They are also given opportunities to develop the social skills needed for work and how to live independently post-prison.

Dr Maberly explained that Kirklevington Grange was unusual in that its 300 offenders are serving long sentences and come with resettlement needs that the prison uniquely is able to support.

Prisoners are allowed out to do unpaid community work, go to college or to get a job, including in the prison’s community cafe. Up to 80 are salaried workers, with 40 per cent of their wages after tax going to Victim Support.

Dr Maberly told the students:

With the appropriate risk assessment, we want people to be out in the community developing social skills and a work ethic, and putting something back into the community.

“The scale of the challenge is immense, but there is also huge job satisfaction when an ex-prisoner writes to say they have been living back in the community successfully for six months and are holding down a job.”

Ms Yuill said:

The fact that Dr Maberly was awarded her MBE for ‘turning prisoners into taxpayers’ describes simply what she and her team achieve in dealing with very complex issues.

“Her presentation was fascinating and a real eye opener for our students. The themes of crime, justice and the work of our prison service play an important role in politics and Dr Maberly’s visit was extremely valuable to our students’ learning.”