ORDER in the classroom was respectfully observed when students from three Rugby schools had the rare opportunity to quiz John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons.
Mr Speaker visited Rugby High School and was quizzed by politically-aware pupils from the school’s Years 9 to 13 – along with students from Lawrence Sheriff and Bilton School.
In a lively and open exchange, the Buckingham MP revealed that speeches by three Merseyside MPs on Hillsborough were among the most moving he has heard in his career; he does not think the EU referendum will ‘kill off’ the Conservative Party; and he has advised a serial parliamentary heckler to take up yoga.
Perseverance paid off for Chris Marley, teacher of History and Politics, who first invited the Commons Speaker to Rugby High School two years ago.
Mr Bercow visits 12 to 15 schools a year, so it was quite a coup for the Warwickshire girls’ grammar, which he credited as a “hugely successful, indeed outstanding school”.
Mr Bercow went on to outline his three main roles as Speaker – chairing proceedings in the House of Commons, speeding up debates, and playing the role of ambassador.
He explained how he needs to know the names of all 650 MPs, which constituency they represent and which party they come from – telling the students that after last year’s general election he only knew two thirds of MPs which meant he had “to learn 30 a day for a week”.
And he outlined his views on insults being thrown across the House of Commons.
“I think knockabout has always been part of party politics,” he said.
“I do think it’s important that the decibel level is contained. When there is an enormous amount of noise and personal attacks it can be counterproductive.
“I think the public wants us to have serious and robust debates, and what I call ‘yobbery and public school twit-ishness’ is a very bad thing.”
He also spoke highly of his host school.
“I am intimately conscious of what a hugely successful, indeed outstanding school, Rugby High is,” he said.
“You are hugely successful in academic terms – but you are so much more than that; you are very, very good in terms of extra-curricular activities and in terms of the breadth of mind and the scale of horizons which a really fine school should have.
“I had in my mind that the English translation of your Latin motto is: ‘I have set heights in my heart’ and that seems to me to be a very pithy encapsulation of what a good school should be; which is, a school that emphasises not contentment with the status quo but aspiration for the future, ambition to do better and assertiveness among pupils, which is hugely to your credit.”