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Primary Parliament - Autumn Term

We were delighted to return to Nottingham City Council House in November for our Autumn term Primary Parliament!

This event was supported by the University of Nottingham's Institute for Policy and Engagement. The University has been awarded the status of University of Sanctuary which inspired the themes of this term's Primary Parliament.

This term we focused on themes around Nottingham as a City of Sanctuary. We explored this by asking what does it mean for a city, schools and its citizens to create a place of welcome? What does this look and feel like? And how can we offer support for people living and arriving here?

In times of mass migration and displacement we thought this was an important topic to approach with the young students, to gain their perspective and understand how they feel as young citizens of an ever changing city. We explored the concepts of welcome, care, sanctuary and security from all angles, from the spaces we spend time in to the language we use, from the awareness we have of other people's idea of sanctuary to our connections with our own friends and families.

Over two days we worked with students at the Council House from schools across the region including: Forest Fields, Heathfield, Mellers, Robin Hood, Southwold, Glade Hill, Melbury, Rise Park, Rosslyn Park and Welbeck! Ambleside, Bluebell Hill, Bulwell St Mary's, Crabtree Farm, Djanogly Northgate, Our Lady, Rufford, Snape Wood, Southglade, St Mary's, Whitemoor. On the third day of Primary Parliament we worked online with special schools including Woodlands and Oak Field.

Students both at the in person event and online from across different year groups began by working in groups on a warm up, story telling game, using objects to think about journeys and places of belonging. Each days event began with wonderful talks introducing The City, Universities and Schools of Sanctuary as the main focus and projects that are already happening in the city to promote welcome and create safe spaces. Speakers included: Jo McIntyre, Professor of Education at the University of Nottingham and students from STAR ( Student Action for Refugees) from the University of Nottingham.

Students were then given the opportunity to choose how they would explore these subjects by using either drama or art to represent their ideas and create a presentation to the whole group at the end of the day. The drama activity was led by Jon Rea - Research, Engagement and Consultation Manager for Nottingham City Council, who encouraged the students to use drama to create narratives from the perspectives of both people newly arriving to the city and people welcoming others to the city. The students did not hesitate and immediately began writing their stories and creating evocative plots about new students joining their schools, people missing their families in far away places and forms of discrimination that could take place and how these could be prevented.

The art workshop was led by Creative Practitioner Ruth Lewis-Jones. Here the students were encouraged to create their own banners intended to greet people arriving at Nottingham train station. This task brought up conversations around different cultural meanings of colour, language, symbolism and care. The students created a wide variety of brightly coloured banners using different languages and imagery to welcome new arrivals to this city, thinking about the way they would want to be welcomed themselves and what they would like to promote about Nottingham to new arrivals to make them feel welcome.

While they where working on their creative tasks the students where visited by the Lord Mayor of Nottingham Councillor Wendy Smith, who had come to listen to and discuss the students ideas. On completing these tasks the days ended with presentations to the whole group. Each drama group took the (physical and virtual) stage to perform their plays, receive feedback and answer questions from the audience. The art groups followed with line ups of students displaying their welcome banners and explaining the meaning behind what they contained. The conversations inspired by these tasks were broad ranging, diplomatic and mature from the students. They understood different perspectives in their imagined scenarios and related to them through their own experiences at school and in their communities. They had an overwhelming sense of justice and debated the most appropriate ways to resolve sensitive issues. They demonstrated an in-depth understanding and empathy towards people from different backgrounds and cultures and showed that with their generation Nottingham really is a city of sanctuary.


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