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Policy League - Have your voice heard

With the age to vote becoming a hot topic and more and more young people showing an interest in political affairs, Hornsey Sixth Form are keen to lead the way in giving our students at insight into the power of politics.

Read on for an interview with Tiffany Smyly, Programme Director of Policy First from The Economist Education Foundation.

An Interview with Tiffany Smyly - Policy First

Could you outline the rationale behind Policy league?

The Policy League is a competition between sixth forms which aims to help young adults make sense of complex social, political and economic challenges and to adopt a collaborative approach to finding solutions. 

Debating can teach young people to narrow their viewpoints and reward argument ‘winners’. This does not represent the complexity of solution seeking in the real world. Young people must be able to work with views different to their own if they are to find solutions for the many societal problems they will face growing up. The Policy League helps them challenge, negotiate, and empathise in order to reach a consensus with groups they don't necessarily agree with.

Sixth forms are asked to research specific positions on a given issue. They then come together to form a coalition team, tasked with creating a joint policy to address an issue. These policies are presented to a panel of respected judges. No team can succeed unless they can collaborate, negotiate and find creative solutions to address apparently conflicting aims.

Could you describe Hornsey Sixth Form’s involvement with the development of Policy League?

Hornsey Sixth Form have been working with The Economist Educational Foundation to pilot the Policy League this year. As one of only three pilot schools, the students have worked closely with both the foundation staff and the other sixth forms to take part in and help to shape the programme. Since attending a launch event at The Economist Tower in central London, they've completed negotiation workshops, researched current affairs topics, prepared presentations and partnered with other sixth forms to form coalitions at our policy making events. Hornsey students have reflected and given feedback throughout the pilot which has led to positive changes in the programme. 

Could you explain how you feel the students benefited from taking part in this initiative?

Students have been able to engage with issues in a fresh way. This year, Hornsey students have looked in detail at conflict in the Middle East, gentrification in London and the Investigatory Powers Bill. As well as building their knowledge of these topics, they are asked to consider different positions and look for common ground on issues that do not have public consensus.

Students develop their communication skills through discussions centred around listening and negotiating. Students have needed to use both critical and creative skills in order to problem solve.

Could you describe what impressed you the most about working with Hornsey Sixth Form students?

Hornsey sixth form students have a notable presence and share their opinions both thoughtfully and confidently. They are passionate when talking about issues they feel affect themselves and others. However, they also possess the ability to empathise with other viewpoints and to appreciate different perspectives. This means they can make decisions based on logical, well-reasoned discussion. 

Could you describe how you envisage working with Hornsey Sixth Form in the future?

The final Policy League competition day will be in July and two teams from Hornsey are in the running to win. The winning team will be invited to sit in on an editorial meeting at The Economist, where they will see many of the skills they have developed over the year in action. 

Moving forward, The Economist Educational Foundation will be recruiting more London sixth forms to join Hornsey for the Policy League 2016/17. Students will take part in bespoke training in September to kick off the programme. Hornsey School for Girls also participates in The Burnet News Club, a current affairs programme for schools. We hope there will be opportunities next year to link up the sixth form and school so that sixth form students can mentor younger students.