Parliamentary democracy

Learning objective

Learn how laws get made in democracies and the role citizens can play in the law making process.

Success criteria

   Describe the role of political parties in a democracy
   Describe the role of parliament
   Describe how democracy works elsewhere, e.g. in the European Union

This will take at least two lessons.



  First part of the topic – separate lesson
Introduction to learning 

Get the class to vote by secret ballot on some topic of the day.

Get them to choose the topic as a class.

If short of ideas, suggest
   - Shorter holidays at Christmas and Easter and longer holidays in the summer.
   - Reducing the voting age to 16.
   - Banning the sale of cigarettes in shops

   - Get shops to sell less meat (to cut methane gas)

  • Ban the use of pesticides in farming to protect insects, bird and reptiles

Take a show of hands to count the votes. Explain that but for the social distancing you would have used a box for the votes, had two tellers to count the votes and declare the result.  This is the heart of a democratic system of government.

Challenge and extension activities

Before the class votes, get one student to propose the motion, another to oppose. Just a few words on each side.

Main body of lesson
 Political parties

Name a political party in the UK.  Do you know what it stands for?

Get the class to name the main parties, Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green: in Wales add Plaid Cymru and in Scotland, add the Scottish National Party. In Northern Ireland, the Ulster Unionists and Sinn Fein.  List on the board.

(Work in pairs to) produce a short phrase or two to describe one of the parties. (Let the pairs choose the party.)

Go through the list on the board, asking for a description. Where there is none, work out one with the class.

To the class: Why do you have political parties?

   Represent the interests of the people
   Form a government
Challenge and extension 

One or more of these tasks:

Which parties form the government?

What is a party manifesto? What use does a party make of it.

The most recent general election was on December 12, 2019.

The result was a victory for the Conservative party with an overall majority of 80 seats. The next largest party, Labour, got 203 seats.

Government in this country is at three main levels, central government, devolved government (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), local government (metropolitan, county, district etc).

There are also parish councils in many areas with very local responsibilities. See Democracy in Action on the Student site

(Group) task 

(In small groups) decide (giving one example) what sort of laws students think are made
   by the local Council
   by Parliament.

See Democracy in Action on the Student site

Challenge and extension
In small groups decide what sort of laws they think (giving one example) are made
  in Europe.

Support activities   Try and get a local councillor to come to the class or to a school assembly and say what he/she does.


Second part of the topic in a separate lesson

Learning objective
    Learn the role of the UK Parliament

Success criteria

  Describe what happens at a general election
  Describe and act out how laws get made
  Describe how laws are made in Europe

Introduction to learning 

Ask the class (each pair) in turn for one thing that happens.  List on the screen. Prompt answers where there are gaps.

What is the purpose of a general election ?
How often does it take place ?

  • When did the last one take place?

Who has the right to vote ?
Where do people vote ?
How does a candidate get elected to become a Member of Parliament (MP), Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), Member of the Welsh Assembly?

  • What is the name of the geographical area that an MP represents?
  • What do the political parties do during an election to promote themselves?

(Continue in your pairs)

What happens after the elections take place?

  The majority party forms a government. The House of Commons has 650 MPs. To form a government a party needs to win 326 seats.
-  If no party has an absolute majority two or more parties may form a coalition

-  It is possible for the largest party to form a government even without an absolute majority.  It then forms what is called a minority government.
-  The prime minister-in-waiting goes to see the Queen who appoints him/her to the position.

Main body of lesson
Making laws

Take one of the laws suggested earlier and track its progress through the Houses of Parliament in very simple terms.

Use class discussion to refine it into a simple proposal for a new law.
Role play
If this can be done, (you may need separate classrooms) observing social distancing, take two sets of small groups. One to represent the House of Commons and the other to represent the House of Lords. Link one Commons group to one Lords group.  Give each some time to consider the draft law and then time to exchange their suggestions for changing it and come to an agreed position.

Get representatives of the paired groups to present the new law.
Get the class to debate/ ask questions and then vote by show of hands in this case.

Provide information on a worksheet 

Government proposes changes to an existing law or proposes a new law in the form of a Bill.

Parliament debates draft Bill through various stages. May propose changes to the Bill at each stage.

Draft Bill goes to the House of Lords to go through same stages.
Lords may make some changes.

Commons and Lords accept each other’s changes.

Bill goes to the Queen to get Royal Assent and becomes an Act of Parliament, official name for a new law.

Challenge and extension activities   Go to Parliament website and identify the stages a Bill has to go through to become law. Say just a word or two about each stage.  First and Second Readings, Committee stage, Report stage, Third Reading.

Go to the citizensofeurope website and identify the three bodies that make European law: The Commission that drafts the law, and the Parliament and the Council of Ministers that debate and pass the law.  Say a word about each body.

 Feedback and assessment
Teacher observation of work in pairs, groups, and in role play.

Citizenship Education for KS3 Hodder Education 2014

UK Parliament: Making laws
Citizens of Europe - a short guide to the EU

Lesson plan KS3 - Parliamentary democracy