'Dianne Abbott and Shami Chakrabarti heard our ideas about politics'

Diane Abbott and Shami Chakrabarti were among the guest speakers at Catherine West's summer school

Diane Abbott and Shami Chakrabarti were among the guest speakers at Catherine West's summer school - Credit: PA

For one week in July, teenagers from across Haringey sat in our separate rooms and logged onto Zoom to attend Catherine West MP's Politics Summer School.

Packed with thought-provoking sessions, it offered an unparalleled insight into the world of politics.

We met inspiring figures shaping local and national politics. In a Q&A with MPs and peers, household names such as Diane Abbott and Shami Chakrabarti took a genuine interest in our questions and ideas, whilst London Assembly members and local councillors told us about the difficult decisions they must make in the face of huge funding cuts and how fulfilling it is to have a tangible effect on their community.

We quizzed Keir Starmer's deputy director of parliamentary affairs on the strategy she uses to craft questions for PMQs, and learned about the methodology of policy making from the civil service, before putting these ideas into practice by working through hypothetical policy issues in teams and writing our own PMQs questions.

Beyond those shaping policy from the inside, we investigated civil society's influence. I witnessed the importance of journalism in creating accountability as Amelia Gentleman spoke about the breaking of the Windrush scandal, and realised the power of the press for campaigning as Pippa Crerar recounted the role of the Mirror in changing the law on organ donation.

We even had the chance to plan our own campaigns with the UK Parliament Education Team, assessing who in positions of power might be sympathetic to our causes and what methods would be most successful in convincing them, before hearing from existing campaigning groups, such as trade unions, Haringey for a Green New Deal, and Refugee Action. Catherine’s commitment to these issues, and to empowering us as young people to act on them, was inspiring.

The week was both intellectually stimulating and practically useful for thinking about how to bring about the change we wish to see in the world. As I now head off to university, I feel excited, empowered, and have new ideas of career paths and actions to build my involvement with politics.

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Rebekah Treganna is a former Channing School student who will be attending the University of Cambridge to study human, social and political sciences.

Rebekah Treganna

Rebekah Treganna - Credit: Rebekah Treganna