Friday, 8 May 2015

Whitley Students Visit Houses of Parliament and Tower of London

Coventry Telegraph Article - View.
By Abigail Rodgers and Emma Smith of 7D  
On Friday 8th May 2015 a big group of 29 student reporters got a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit the Houses of Parliament and the Tower of London. Three of us were unable to make it for the trip. However it will be very exciting for us to learn about the Houses of Parliament, especially after on the day after the general election.
It was an early start and we had to be at Coventry train station at 7:30am.
Outside the weather was very nice with light wind and sunshine. Everyone was very excited and we talked non-stop on the Virgin train journey from Coventry to Euston.
9:15am We arrived at London Euston train station and had to catch the London underground to the Portcullis building. It was the first time for many of us to travel to London, let alone the Portcullis House.
9:40am We lined up outside Portcullis House waiting to go through security. All of our three teachers (Mrs Nguyen, Mrs Stanbrook and Mr Allen) had to go through proper body searches as they had cameras and their belongings with them.
10:00am We were divided into two smaller groups and started the tour.
We spent a few short minutes looking around the ground floor and ceiling of Portcullis House. It looked like a ship with very nice and curvy glass ceilings. Through the glass ceiling we could see quite a number of very high chimneys. Later on we found these chimneys function as an unpowered air conditioning system for the building. Wow!
There were many MPs walking back and forth.
We were then taken to Westminster Hall by two very nice and friendly staff members of the Educational Service. All of us were astonished to know more than 600 tonnes of wood was used to create the roof beam of the Hall!
Then onward to the Central Lobby, the Commons Chamber and the Lords’ Chamber.
There were many facts for us to take in and we all listened to the two Education Service staff members attentively. Some facts were shared including the government in power sit at the right hand side of the Speaker and the opposition sits at the other side of the room. We were also shown the ‘Despatch box’ (rectangle shape with light yellow colour) where the Ministers or the Prime Minister stand and make their speeches. On the other side of the Despatch box there is a similar box and it was called ‘the Opposition Despatch box’.
Jonathan of 7A asked a question about the big green chair positioned opposite the Speaker’s chair (but at the other end of the Commons Chamber). We were told that it’s the Serjeant at Arms’ chair (who is there to represent the authority of the Speaker). The floor above the MPs’ chairs include the Press and the public galleries.
All benches were green.
We were then taken to the Lords’ Chamber where we stared at the Woolsack  - it is the seat of the Lord Speaker. We then found out that it was stuffed with wool brought from around the Commonwealth.
We found the similar ‘Despatch box’ on the large table in the red and it was so amazing to see the golden throne where the Queen sits when she does her speech once a year for the State Opening of Parliament.
After the very detailed tour we went back to Westminster Hall and had a workshop about elections and voting. We were very privileged to have the workshop with Dawn in the nice room on the left-hand-side of the Westminster Hall.
Dawn talked to us about writing our own manifestos and how to present it to our fellow student reporters. Then came the voting time! And the result was: Khalid of 7B – the Prime Minister, Oliver of 8A – the Deputy Prime Minister, and Corey of 7D – the Chancellor of the Exchequer!
12:05 We left Portcullis House to have some lunch. While most of us enjoyed our packed lunch in the Parliament Square, eight reporters got a little bit lost! Thankfully Mr Allen was with them, and with a good search we found them.
Soon after finishing our lunch, we caught the tube to Tower Hill and then made our way to the iconic Tower of London.
A workshop of 90 minutes was booked for us: “Imprisonment, Escape and Execution: Elizabethan religious upheaval”. Unfortunately we could not make it on time so the workshop was cut a bit short.
Simon, our workshop leader, took us to the Salt Tower and explained to us the long history of the Tower. We have learnt that it was this Tower that kept very famous prisoners including John Balliol - a Scottish King and was captured by Edward I and imprisoned at the Tower in 1296 for three years. Some other prisoners included Anne Boleyn in 1536 and Lady Jane Grey in 1554 when she was just 16 years old!  
Simon showed us some of the prisoners’ graffiti. We felt overwhelmed to look at it.
Then we started the self-guided tour around the Tower. We went to the execution site  where Anne Boleyn (and two other English Queens) were beheaded.
Our last stop was the Crown Jewels building.
Everyone was excited about going to see the Crown jewels but to my surprise it was incredibly busy! Inside the building you could see many household items made from real gold. The Crown of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and the Imperial State Crown were also on display. To be able to see it you have to follow the flow on people carried by an automatic conveyor belt. Everything on display was amazing!
4:15pm We decided to go back to the train station and stroll along the shops outside the Tower.
5:20pm After a rushed return to the Virgin train back to Coventry,  we all applauded Mark –the Virgin train staff member who took all of us to the train before members of the public arrived.
We finally made it back to Coventry at 6:45 pm.
Here are some comments from our fellow student reporters:
Amy and Courtney of 7A: “We learnt that Anne Boleyn got her head chopped off also that a man escaped from the Tower of London using oranges, feathers and string. Our favourite part was seeing the Crown jewels because they cost a phenomenal amount of money to make and keep”.
Fatima of 7C said “The funniest part of my day was when Khalid ran away from the birds in the Parliament Square“.
That is it for now.
See you in our next article.
Abbie and Emma