Mounts Bay Academy today welcomed as a guest the local Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George who spent the morning talking to students about the importance of democracy and freedom of speech.
Whilst in the Academy, he also opened the new Mounts Bay Centre for Democracy, Freedom Square. Freedom Square is an innovative outdoor debating chamber that has been the brainchild of a group of students who wanted to help the Academy celebrate the life and work of Nelson Mandela. They have become affectionately known as “Team Mandela”.
The group spent a series of lunchtimes discussing a suitable tribute with Mrs Davey and felt that somewhere to practise the art of debate and reflect on the issues that face not only themselves but also society, would be the most appropriate way to provide a lasting memorial.
“The best thing was sitting down and giving our ideas to Mrs Davey said Chris Stevens, 9 Blue “and I’ve made new friends and learnt new things,” said Maisy Sky Lumbers.
They then collaborated with Academy Staff to realise their vision. The corridor leading to the square has been lined with inspirational quotes from Nelson Mandela and the square is surrounded by large prints of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. The Square has been designed to contain all of the elements needed for a whole class debate, including opposing benches and a raised area to deliver arguments for both sides. Students are encouraged to join the debate and swap sides if their opinions change.
As an Adventure Learning School, the students were also keen to use their experience of working outside the classroom and so the square also contains a water feature and gardens to provide a quiet area for reflection and is a great place for other lessons to take place in the natural environment.
Mrs Davey said “We always encourage our students to have a voice and question the world around them. As part of this the whole school takes part in the decision making process of various aspects of the Academy through our Crew System which informs our Junior Leadership Team. We have already had some lively debates on topics as diverse as School Uniform and Philosophy for Children and this fantastic addition to the campus provides not just a great new space but a fitting memorial to everyone who has championed freedom of speech.
Andrew George added “Nelson Mandela throughout his life was praised and lauded for the values he represented. He’s always been an icon for many politicians who have been inspired by what he stood for”.
Team Mandela are justifiably proud of the finished project and Jacob Gwennap said “I hope we will be able to debate here for many years to come”.