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GR8 Summit

GR8 Summit

Just days before the G8 Summit in July, our team of year ten Aylesbury High School students attended the first J8 Summit in Edinburgh. It was to be a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us.

We believe that initiatives such as the J8 Summit are really important, because we are the people who are going to inherit the world, complete with all its problems. We are the leaders of tomorrow so it's really important that we have a say now in major world issues and how the world is run.

We had heard about the competition through our form tutor, Victoria Braunton, who has also taught politics to our class. She accompanied us to the summit along with another teacher, Brenda Dean, head of PSHE and citizenship.

It was Mrs Dean who introduced the competition in the school. Through knowledge gained from citizenship lessons - which include topics such as media studies, human rights and politics - as well as our own enthusiasm, we were inspired to enter.

Our team, called AHS8-Changing The World, consisted of Lily Hills, Hayley Parrott, Hannah Austin, Koren Lelitte, Polly Dickson, Tammy Oxley, Steph Gough and Elise Campbell.

Our entry consisted of a communiqué focusing on the summit's two topics, Africa and climate change, and an accompanying project containing opinions from our whole class. We looked at the need to tie the climate change agenda closely to the relief of third world debt and support for countries with corrupt governments.

In our school, being an active citizen is greatly encouraged. Recently the school hosted a post-16 citizenship conference for local schools titled 'Breaking Down Barriers', organised by members of the sixth form.

On a wider scale we have link schools in two continents: one in Kenya and one in India. Being able to make friends with students all over the world really made the topics discussed in our communiqué, particularly surrounding Africa, very personal.

On Sunday 3 July, AHS8 and our two accompanying teachers arrived at Edinburgh University ready for the opening ceremony at Edinburgh castle. This gave us the opportunity to meet students from all over the world, as students from every G8 country, excluding Canada, attended.

Monday was the first official day of the summit. It consisted of ten workshops, of which each of our delegates had to attend two, one focusing on Africa and one on climate change.

There was a number of keynote speakers: Myles Wickstead from the Commission for Africa, Dr Emma Tompkins from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change and Pen Hadow, the only man to have reached both the north and south poles completely unsupported.

These talks and workshops gave us new ideas and helped us develop our own thoughts to be put into the final communiqué. Our suggestions were noted down on the 'wall of ideas' which consisted of eight different whiteboards headlined with different aspects of Africa and climate change.

On Monday evening, we travelled to Melville Castle for our highland games and ceilidh. This was another fun evening which gave us opportunities to develop friendships with other delegates.

On Tuesday, we split up into our original teams and each team was given a different topic from the wall of ideas. We had 'climate change-business' and we had to think of three points that could potentially be put into the final communiqué.

After much discussing, debating and deliberating, we compiled our three points and were ready to present them to the other delegates. Each group gave a presentation and there was a vote to decide on the best four points for each of the two themes.

These eight points were to be put into the final communiqué and we were thrilled when one of our points was chosen. Our idea was to have an internationally recognised charter mark which would be awarded to businesses working towards carbon offsetting and using renewable energy resources.

Our second idea was a carbon crediting system, where businesses would be given a certain amount of credit to start with. Within a limit, they would have to purchase additional credits. The third was a ban on new products being made with a 'stand-by' feature to tackle wasted energy.

After the communiqué had been written, we all travelled to the Scottish parliamentary buildings for the closing ceremony. This began with an African drumming workshop, to give us a taste of African culture.

During the closing ceremony, the Scottish First Minister, Jack McConnell spoke, as did three delegates, including AHS8 team member Hannah Austin. Our communiqué was presented to Mr McConnell and the next day, a few delegates were lucky enough to go to Gleneagles to present it to Tony Blair.

Although no AHS8 team members could attend, we were thrilled that Tony Blair read the communiqué and acknowledged our passion for the world we live in, which was shown by all the ideas presented in the communiqué.

Having returned home, all team members feel that they have gained so much from the summit and it has really helped increase interest in citizenship activities in school.

We have developed skills in debating, presenting ideas and constructively criticising our own ideas in order to improve them. These skills will be valuable throughout our lives, as will the friendships made at the summit.

We feel that the J8 Summit has given us a chance to have our voices and ideas heard by some of the world's most influential leaders. Chances like these are hard to come by but they are so valuable for all young people involved.

Sometimes a young person's perspective of the world can offer ideas that older generations may neglect.

Hannah Austin and Elise Campbell are year ten students at Aylesbury High School, an 11-18 girls community school in Buckinghamshire. Their deputy head and SHA member Ellie Thompson encouraged them to write this article for Leader.

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