The number of young people able to go on educational visits to the Houses of Parliament is set to double next year after planning permission was granted for a new dedicated education centre.
Each year, around 45,000 pupils aged seven to 18 from across the UK visit Westminster through Parliament’s Education Service, but it is hoped the new facility will see this number more than double to 100,000.
It is to be built on the north end of Victoria Tower Gardens, the well-known park adjacent to the House of Lords, and is scheduled for completion in 2015. It has been reported that the centre will cost £7 million to build.
Parliament’s Education Service works with schools and members of both Houses of Parliament to support young people in developing their understanding of Parliament and democracy.
It offers a range of free programmes and resources and its remit is to inform young people about the role, work and history of Parliament through educational visits, tours, publications and other outreach work.
The current demand for education services, particularly educational visits to Parliament, is heavily oversubscribed and it is hoped that the first school visits to the new centre will take place during 2015.
The designs for the new building have been drawn up by architects Feilden+Mawson, in conjunction with landscape architect Kim Wilkie, and they were approved by Westminster City Council last month.
Rowena Bailey, community and trust liaison co-ordinator at Lyndon School in Solihull, is among those to have taken school trips to the Houses of Parliament.
She said: “The tours of the Houses of Parliament are excellent and students gain a great deal from actually being there and seeing where debates take place, and along the way learning about the history and procedures as well as enjoying the buildings themselves. It is great that the Education Centre will allow even more young people to experience this service.”
John Thurso MP, spokesman for the House of Commons Commission, said: “It’s vital for the future democratic health of our nation that young people understand the role and relevance of Parliament. The UK Parliament does not currently have an education centre so it is welcome news that work can begin on a dedicated centre to welcome school groups to their Parliament.”
Dr Emma-Jane Watchorn, head of Parliament’s Education Service, added: “Parliament’s Education Service provides a wide range of free resources designed to support the teaching and learning of political literacy in schools around the UK, and a visit to Parliament really helps bring democracy to life.
“We are delighted to have the opportunity to increase the number of school children that can experience Parliament in action. Over the coming years, this exciting new centre will help us inspire and connect hundreds of thousands of young people with Parliament and democracy.”
For more information on Parliament’s Education Service, including updates on the new centre, visit www.parliament.uk/education CAPTION: Lessons on Parliament: An illustration of how the proposed Education Centre will look when it opens in 2015 (Images: UK Parliament/ Feilden+Mawson)