Politics affects us all, whether we choose to notice it or not. Whether it is the political knock-about of PMQs, the continuing reverberations of Brexit or the latest political scandal, studying this ever-changing landscape requires students to engage with the breaking news stories that inform the debate and discussion in lessons. Our politics course is very engaging and interactive, leading to a highly-academic A level respected by universities and employers alike.
The Department specialises in UK Politics and US Politics with courses that provide not only a grounding in the political theory and practice of both countries but encourage students to make links with different political systems across the globe. There is also a unit on the core ideologies of liberalism, conservatism and socialism with a further study on nationalism. This ideological content provides an intellectual foundation for the other aspects of the course.
Students learn to:
- Develop a critical awareness of the nature of politics
- Acquire an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the political institutions and processes of the UK and USA, as well as an ability to make links and comparisons with other political systems across the globe
- Develop their powers of critical thinking
- Acquire an understanding of, and opinions on, the major political issues facing the UK and the US
- Develop their ability to communicate effectively on paper and orally
Politics is the ideal course for those with a lively and enquiring mind, a willingness to develop an interest in politics and current affairs, a desire to explore new ideas and an ability to communicate their ideas effectively. It suits those who enjoy argument and debate and are keen to develop their own opinions and critically analyse those of others. Students should be willing to read a quality newspaper and political magazines, and to follow current affairs on radio, television and the internet.
- Learning journey - Lower Sixth
The focus in the Lower Sixth is on the contemporary politics and government of the UK and political ideas.
Lessons are characterised by lively discussion that often relates current political news stories to the key academic debates within the subject. We study the fundamental concepts, institutions and processes in UK politics including subjects such as the power of the Prime Minister and whether the executive dominates the other branches of government and amounts to what Lord Hailsham has described as an “elective dictatorship”.
Major constitutional reforms such the Human Rights Act and its impact on civil liberties and the role of the judiciary, the drawing of judges into the political fray as well as extensive comparisons with the US Supreme Court are central to the course. The advantages and disadvantages of direct democracy, in the context of the outcome of the EU Referendum, are also studied. The impact of the First Past the Post electoral system, alternative electoral systems and voting behaviour are related to the volatile political re-alignment currently affecting the political system. We study the changing relationship of subnational governments and Westminster, as the process of devolution continues to evolve with its potential implications for the integrity of the United Kingdom.
There is also a focus on the traditional political ideologies of liberalism, conservatism and socialism. Nationalism will also be studied as our non-core ideology. Students will learn about the core ideas and principles and how they apply in practice to human nature, the state, society and the economy, the divisions and tensions within each ideology and their key thinkers.
- Learning journey - Upper Sixth
The focus in the Upper Sixth is on US politics and comparative politics.
Key debates include the critical differences between parliamentary and presidential forms of government and the implications for effective governance. The power of the President is examined in the context of major historical events such as 9/11 and the coronavirus pandemic. The emergence of anti-establishment politics including the election and administration of Donald Trump as President is a key feature of the course. Students will also consider the debates on the nature of democracy in the USA and the increasing influence of social media on politics.
The significance of the US constitution, described by Gladstone as “the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man” is also considered. The effectiveness of Congress in a hyperpartisan era and the influence of powerful interest groups such as the National Rifle Association on legislators is studied. The power and influence of the US Supreme Court alongside critical decisions of the Court, such as the 2015 Obergefell decision that legalised same sex marriage in America, are key to the course. With the retirement of swing Justice Anthony Kennedy and the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh, the changing composition of the court and its implications for American society will be analysed. As the 2020 Presidential election approaches there will be an intense focus on the campaigns, the outcome of the election and the implications for the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as a consideration of the importance of third parties in American politics.
- Providing stretch
Students have the opportunity to attend a number of politics conferences during the course including a Lower Sixth event that has featured prestigious figures such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage and Hilary Benn among others. Recent visiting speakers to the Perse include Heidi Allen, Daniel Zeichner and Gina Miller.
Upper Sixth students attend a conference at the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, featuring academics discussing the US political system, with the opportunity to question members of Congress from both the Republican and Democratic parties.
We encourage students to read widely. Suggested texts include Andrew Rawnsley The End of the Party, Tom Bingham The Rule of Law, Jonathan Wolff An Introduction to Political Philosophy, J.S Mill On Liberty, Tim Shipman Fall Out, and Bob Woodward Fear: Trump in the White House among many others.
Students enter essay competitions such as the RA Butler Politics Prize run by Trinity College, Cambridge.
- Beyond the classroom
We regularly run mock elections, giving students the opportunity to lead campaigns, make speeches and take part in debates. Students attended the Kettering count for the 2015 General Election and the 2016 EU Referendum.
Our ’42’ society programme of lunchtime lectures regularly includes topics of interest to those studying politics.
Politics, philosophy and economics students co-ordinate and run PPE Society for Years 10 to Upper Sixth, considering thorny issues such as whether Artificial Intelligence should be weaponised, and whether the internet is a force for good or evil.
There are several other societies that, while not focused solely on the subject, can provide excellent wider context for the student of politics. Think Society meets weekly for philosophical debate, and F.R. Leavis Society seminars encourage interdisciplinary thought across the arts and humanities.
Senior Debating Society provides an excellent opportunity to develop the ability to form and sustain an argument. Debates are held on a fortnightly basis – the motion of one such debate was “This house believes the Second Amendment is a valuable safeguard of civil liberties”. Our students also enjoy opportunities to participate in external competitions and workshops.
- Politics at university
We offer structured support for students applying to read Politics, International Relations, PPE, HSPS and other related degrees. This includes 1:1 help putting together a strong UCAS application, advice on super-curricular reading, support to write an effective personal statement, mock interviews and preparation for university entrance tests.
Perse students studying Politics or related subjects have regularly been awarded places to read PPE at the University of Oxford, HSPS at Cambridge University and Politics at Durham University among many other prestigious university courses.