A delegation of four pupils were invited to The Palace of Westminster by UNESCO and ‘Voices of Future Generations’ to discuss key worldwide issues such as Sustainability and the Rights of the Child with children from schools around the country, focusing particularly on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The aim is to empower children to have a voice about the future they wish to see. “Children, and their children, will inherit the earth. We aim to give a voice to all children worldwide to express their insightful and creative visions about how they would like this future to be.” (‘Voices of Future Generations’)
The children were joined by Mrs Hawkins and Mr Cobb to represent St John’s. In the interests of sustainability and independence the pupils were put in charge of their own travel and had to buy tickets and plan the journey by train across London. The teachers took a back seat as the pupils led the way confidently and collaboratively from Cambridge to Westminster tube station, having only been given the instructions: “We need to get to the Palace of Westminster”.
The discussions took place in a committee room in the House of Lords, in similar style to a real UN debate, with chairs in a circle and microphones for the children to speak into. The children offered opinions and suggestions of how to combat key issues such as “How can we better take into account the interests of, and be better voices for, future generations?” and were joined in discussion by their peers and adult leaders of various sustainability and children’s rights organisations, including Baroness Smith of Newnham. The St John’s pupils spoke articulately, imaginatively and were commended particularly for their environmental awareness and their creative solutions to problems. One of the younger pupils commented, “This was our chance to get children’s voices and opinions heard”. The day ended with a trip to the Visitors’ Gallery of the House of Commons to watch Parliament in session.