Work Experience

Since her election in May 2015, Victoria has offered the opportunity of work experience in her local and parliamentary offices to young people in the constituency.

PRENTIS SUMMER SCHOOL

This year, Victoria will be offering places on a week-long ‘Summer School’ for a group of local school pupils. Students will have the opportunity to see Parliament in action, visit a local business, spend a day at The Guardian offices in London, and will finish the week with a group project.

The work experience summer school will run from Monday 9 July- Friday 13 July 2018 and is open to students aged 16 and above. While there are no fees, costs and expenses, including food and travel, will be the responsibility of the student.

To apply for the Prentis Summer School, please email a copy of your CV along with 200 words (max) on what you feel you would gain from the opportunity. Applicants should be aware that this opportunity is only available during the second week of July and spaces are strictly limited.

Applications can be sent to victoria.prentis.mp@parliament.uk no later than 1 April 2018. Successful applicants will be informed by 15 April.

(Please note, priority will be given to applicants in Victoria’s constituency). 

 

You can read more about some of our previous work experience students below.

Yahan Ishraque, 17, Matthew Arnold School

I am extremely interested in politics and how it works but my knowledge of politics only revolved around what I saw and read on the news. I wanted to see real politics in action on a local and national level and this is why I applied to do work experience with my local MP, Victoria Prentis.

On Monday, I arrived at the constituency office and was greeted by one of Victoria’s constituency support officers who introduced me to what their day to day work would usually entail. I started off by shadowing her in a meeting that discussed organising a fundraising event in the area to help raise money for a charity called ‘Singing for Syrians’.  It helps aid workers, doctors and vulnerable people affected by the crisis in Syria, by encouraging individuals, bands, choirs and schools to come together and hold a signing event to help raise awareness of the rich culture of Syria and the crisis its people are going through. After the meeting, I was then asked to draft a press release (something which I had never done before) for Victoria, focusing on the issue of smart meters to track energy usage at home when preparing for winter. It was an interesting topic as I gained an insight into how MPs would address the concerns of their constituents on a local level when it came to particular issues affecting them such as smart meters. My next task was to scan some letters and invoices and I got to see how it it is cross referenced to make it easier for Victoria’s staff to conduct case work. The final task of the day was to write a letter on behalf of one of Victoria’s constituents. This was a valuable experience for me because I was at the forefront of seeing local politics working in practice; I had learnt that the staff who support MPs also play a big role when it comes to responding to issues brought forward by constituents and they also help constituents with their day to day needs.  For me, this experience has made me feel that I too was given a responsibility to help constituents in the same way Victoria and her staff would and that was rewarding for me.

On Tuesday, I started my day off by looking through recent newspapers and picking out any articles which either mentioned Victoria or were issues that Victoria could follow up on and address. I was then asked to write a letter to a local primary school who had successfully managed to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support by hosting a coffee morning in their own school.  The day finished with drafting an article for Victoria’s website regarding a recent debate she participated in at Westminster, it involved extensive reading of hansards (official records of the debate) and researching the bill that was being proposed, as well as previous debates in which Victoria had participated. In doing this, I gained more understanding of how bills in parliament are discussed and passed when it comes to national issues, and I was able to see how Victoria and her staff engage with constituents to help them or address any issues they bring up. This may be a quick phone call or arranging to meet up with them to further discuss issues. This typically shows that MPs do remain in touch with their constituents and can represent their views and opinions in parliament. This is a necessity because it is the constituents who have given MPs responsibility in the process of decision making and representation in parliament.

On Wednesday, I went to Westminster. I arrived at Portcullis House and was directed to Victoria’s London office. Here I met more of Victoria’s constituency support officers and got to see how they conduct casework day-to-day to relieve the support officers working in Upper Heyford of the volumes of casework they receive from constituents. Also I was able to see how the London staff consult with constituents about issues that could be brought up in Parliament. This shows that politics is about being engaged with your constituents and doing your absolute best to represent their views and opinions in parliament, making an effort in addressing them. I was then given a tour inside the Palaces of Westminster. I started off at Westminster Hall and while I was there, parliament was exceptionally busy as Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) was taking place. So, although we couldn’t go inside the House of Commons we were able to step foot inside the House of Lords which which was a truly magnificent experience! I had never dreamt of ever being able to see the House of Lords and admiring how grand it is in person. I also had the chance to witness the procession of the Speaker of the House of Commons as he walked through the central lobby and entered the House of Commons. But somehow I managed to get separated from the rest my tour group,  so I had to make my own way back to Westminster hall where the tour had originally started. During the tour I was astonished to see how historically and politically valuable parliament really is, it is the very institution that helped progress our country from an absolutist monarchy ruled system to a more parliamentary democracy. When I arrived back at Victoria’s London office in Portcullis House, I was able to learn a bit more about how questions from MPs who are from the same party as the government, are selected to be discussed within the commons. With the opposition, questions can be thrown at the Prime Minister which could be a surprise for her and I had the opportunity to see Victoria ask a question to the Prime Minister about issues regarding housing, infrastructure and postboxes which was very cool on TV. After lunch, I was then taken  see a Foreign Affairs Select Committee enquiry take place in one of the committee rooms at parliament, it was an issue that I had been following closely prior to my work experience about the violence against Rohingya people in the Rakhine State where there is an ongoing humanitarian crisis. I was able to see directly how MPs hold government ministers to account and I had the pleasure of seeing MPs robustly challenging the Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific Mark Field with questions given to them by their constituents regarding the government’s position on the crisis and some of their own questions. It gave me a good insight to see how one aspect of politics such as foreign affairs, works on a parliamentary level and from there I understood that the work of MPs in committees is designed to keep the government in check and make sure they are carrying out the duties vested upon them. When I came out of the committee room, I saw the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, he was giving a speech in the room next door which was an interesting experience as I had not been expecting that! I ended the day at Westminster by watching a debate at the House of Commons in motion while sitting comfortably behind a glass screen in the public gallery. I also had the chance to briefly see Jeremy Corbyn during the debate and while I was there, it was very interesting to see how the political process in the Commons work. I observed the etiquette of MPs when addressing their colleagues which was interesting for me and I got to see how MPs discuss different issues brought up by their constituents in parliament. I had a tremendous day.

Overall, my three days of work experience with Victoria were truly fascinating. I have always wanted to see real politics working in practice and I am very lucky to have been given the opportunity by Victoria to get work experience as I can now say that I have indeed seen real politics work in practice. Throughout my work experience, I gained valuable insights about the nature of politics on a local and national level. Up until my experience, I wasn’t very aware of the issues affecting my area and now my knowledge has broadened and inspired me to get engaged with politics. I am also grateful for the opportunity to have been able to go into the Houses of Parliament where it serves as the beating heart of British politics and to see true politics work in its actual state, something which I would have never been able to do if it wasn’t for Victoria. I have learnt a variety of skills now that will help me in the future regardless of what career I intend to pursue.

I would truly like to thank Victoria and her staff for looking after me during those three days and would most certainly recommend doing work experience with your local MP to anyone who is interested.

Greta Scott, 17, Tudor Hall School

 

170726 Saye and Sele pub tour

Greta with Victoria at the Saye and Sele Arms in Broughton

 

I applied to do work experience with Victoria after attending her debating competition, which I loved. As a politics student, I was also really interested to see how Parliament works beyond what the textbook was telling me, and so I was incredibly excited when I found out that I had secured work experience with Victoria.

During my time in the constituency office, I was able to help respond to emails, draft press releases, and research how to avoid cybercrime in order to relieve the fears of some constituents. Her staff were so friendly and really made me feel at home, letting me ask them anything and everything. I was also delighted to be able to visit the Saye and Sele Arms as part of Victoria’s Pub Tour. It has been fun to see how she has inspired other MPs, and I believe that pub tours will now be taking place in many other constituencies.

I really enjoyed visiting the Westminster Office. I was able to do some research on the impact that the Fairer Funding Formula would have in the Banbury constituency, and also helped to draft emails to constituents. I was very impressed to find out that, on the Parliamentary campus, there are several cafés, a gym, and even hairdresser’s! The Westminster staff also gave me university advice, which was certainly well-appreciated.

Overall, I have loved my work experience with Victoria, and have learnt so many new skills. I would encourage anyone, even if they are not interested in politics, to apply for work experience with Victoria or their MP, as it is such an eye-opener to the workings of Parliament. Many thanks to both Victoria and her amazing staff!

Hollie Winstone, 16, Gosford Hill School

Work Experience Holly and Carly

Hollie and Carly with Victoria at the Tadmarton Scarecrow Competition

 

Throughout my GCSE History course, I realised that I had a deep interest in political history. Therefore, throughout my work experience with Victoria, I was able to gain new skills and knowledge in areas that are not taught within school.

Over the three days I spent in Upper Heyford, I responded to casework sent to Victoria, drafted responses to constituents, and gained a deeper understanding of political office work. At Westminster, I had the chance to attend debates in the House of Commons, took part in a tour around Parliament and attended meetings. At Westminster I was even shown the statue where the Suffragettes tied themselves as a form of peaceful protest to allow women to have a vote.

Being able to attend debates in the House of Commons was particularly interesting. One of the topics under debate was tuition fees. As I am hoping to go to university, learning how MPs feel about student debt proved to me that the government have identified this as a problem, and are working hard to find a solution.

Additionally, getting to meet Victoria’s constituents at a local event was also motivating for those of us who want to support North Oxfordshire. I was able to learn how Victoria’s work has assisted the area (e.g. preventing the maternity unit from closure) and was able to learn what issues Victoria’s constituents see as a priority. This work experience was unlike that of any of my friends, and I strongly recommend that students apply!

Carly Marsden, 17, North Oxfordshire Academy

I was eager to start work experience with Victoria because I have a deep interest in British politics and British history. Throughout the week I gained more knowledge of Victoria’s recent campaigning to save the Horton, and a clearer insight into how our political system works. On a smaller scale I have learnt how to draft replies to constituents and become familiar with office life for Victoria.

During my time in London I was able to sit in on debates in the House of Commons. I watched debates on drugs, drones and tuition fees. This was extremely useful as I was able to learn techniques certain MP’s use during their debates. Also whilst being in London I was able go on a tour around Westminster, which was particularly interesting as I learnt about what happened in the past has shaped out current political system. I also was able to go out with Victoria in the constituency. I was lucky enough to see her judge the Tadmarton scarecrow competition, where I was able to interact with people and to also learn how Victoria greets and speaks to her constituents. I would strongly encourage other students to apply for work experience with Victoria or their local MP.

Suzan Meyer, 18, City of Oxford College

DAY 1

The first day of my work experience took place at Victoria’s constituency office in Upper Heyford. I was greeted by Victoria’s constituency support officers who introduced me to what their usual day comprises of, and the different activities I would be doing throughout the day. I started the day by looking through recent newspapers, and picking out any articles that mentioned Victoria. This was followed by responding to a letter written by one of Victoria’s constituents. The next activity was to create a database of the many business cards that Victoria receives and sort them out into groups so that it will be easier to look through them and respond if necessary. The final activity for the day was to construct a draft press release, talking about Victoria’s recent visits.

DAY 2

Tuesday was the day we spent in London and it was also the first time we had the chance to meet Victoria in her Westminster office. We began the day by sorting out and looking through Victoria’s letters and afterwards we were asked to respond to the many invitations Victoria receives. We then had the opportunity to have a tour of Parliament, and also had the chance to see Mr Speaker of the House of Commons opening the session. After coming back to Victoria’s office, we responded to more letters from constituents. We finished the day by going into the public gallery and watching MPs debating in the House of Commons.

DAY 3

Wednesday was also spent in Westminster. We looked at some more constituent cases and drafted responses to the issues they were having. Because it was a Wednesday, we watched Prime Minister’s Questions, and also saw Victoria presenting her question to the Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel. After returning to the office, we were asked to select potential questions which Victoria could ask in the House, and also learnt about the process in which questions are submitted and sent off. The final activity for the day was to head to the public gallery and watch the debate about the Grenfell Tower disaster.

DAY 4

After two days spent in Westminster, we spent Thursday in Victoria’s constituency office. The first activity was to construct a database of all the charities around Banbury and Bicester area, listing their contact information and what they do. We then selected local pubs for Victoria to visit for her pub tours. We had to conduct our own research into the local area and select the region that had not yet been visited, or had not been visited for a substantial period of time. During the day we also had the opportunity to visit the local school as a part of their charity raising scheme. We had the chance to talk to the students, and the Principal, and got to see the amazing ideas that they had come up with to raise funds. Finally, we worked on a guide to visas and immigration.

DAY 5

On the last day of our work experience, we had the chance to accompany Victoria on her surgery in Bicester, followed by visiting Kingsmere and the development site.

I have really enjoyed this amazing opportunity to see how politics work in practice, and I highly encourage everyone to take part if they have the chance.

 

Luke Penney, 17, Blessed George Napier School

Monday

I spent my first day in Victoria’s local constituency office in Upper Heyford, it was really nice to meet Victoria’s constituency staff, who showed me the typical day of a local constituency officer. My main role was responding to issues within the community, as well as writing an article for Victoria’s website about her recent visit to Bicester Green.   

Tuesday

London was tremendous; the usual intention to visit this great city is to only go shopping or watching a concert, I have never really contemplated going around parliament, so this opportunity was spectacular.  I met Victoria in the morning, which was a pleasant surprise. Victoria asked me about my future plans and gave me some advice if I go down the route of applying to do law at university. 

However I had an issue with navigating to The Portcullis house in the morning, as I kept going wrong on the Underground! So a slight tip to anyone who is awful at directions, just download a Tube map app on your phone, as it came very handy!

Wednesday

During my second visit to London I thankfully mastered directions so no issue there. Again, the day consisted of going through casework, and watching Victoria contribute a question in the House of Commons about Syrian refugees. It was genuinely interesting to witness my local MP contribute in parliament. In the last section of the visit, another student on work experience and I went and sat in on the Grenfell Tower debate. It was insightful to watch MPs debate the issue with genuine passion. An added bonus was that I saw my ‘guilty pleasure politician’ Ed Miliband. He was in such a rush to get to the canteen that I can only assume the bacon sandwiches were running low!

During the visit there was a tour laid out courtesy of Victoria’s team, and we went around parliament, seeing inside the House of Lords and learning about the history and rituals. This provided me with a new found interest in the Houses of Parliament.

Thursday

The last two days were spent in the offices back in Upper Heyford which allowed a longer lie-in for me. Thursday was mainly spent preparing for Victoria’s surgery, and reading the local papers to see if there were any issues which Victoria might need to be aware of. I also went to visit Heyford Park Free School, speaking to students about an upcoming enterprise fete at the school. It was so impressive how some students had been able to use their initiative to accumulate a huge profit from just five pounds investment.     

Friday

Friday came around so quickly, and I wasn’t ready to leave. The meeting point in the morning was at Sainsbury’s in Bicester, where Victoria was holding her surgery. Although I couldn’t sit in on the conversations, I could clearly see Victoria’s genuine concern for her constituents. Afterwards, we went to Kingsmere, which is the new estate development in Bicester. It was incredible how far they had come already its construction.

Overall Victoria’s work experience is a truly magnificent one and should be considered by everyone. People who are unsure with what career to pursue will certainly find something they will enjoy with different areas of work covered during the course of the week: politics, law, high pressured positons, social interactions and teamwork. I sincerely recommend this experience, and would do it again in a heartbeat.

 

Oliver Hall, 15, The Warriner School

Work Experience Olly and Lucy

Oliver with Victoria and Lucy on the Common’s Terrace 

 

When I found out that I had secured a work experience placement in Victoria’s office I was incredibly excited. My placement took place less than a week after the Queen’s Speech was passed in the House of Commons, so it was interested to see how busy Parliament had become.

On Monday, Thursday and Friday I was in the Constituency Office in Upper Heyford and this allowed me time to get to grips with the concerns that people in the local area have – the Horton was at the top of the list! It was interesting to see the sheer amount of work that the constituency team do to help people who have written in about issues. I drafted letters, emails and press releases along with giving tips to the office staff on how to improve Victoria’s social media. I also created databases about the expected rise in population of the constituency and the number of houses being built in the new developments. On the Friday, I accompanied Victoria to one of her surgeries at Banbury Sainsbury’s, and it was enlightening to hear about what local issues were affecting people, face to face rather than through email and letters.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, I travelled to Westminster where I was greeted inside Portcullis House by the Westminster team. It was inspiring to see MPs from all sides, including Victoria, stand up and speak to the Chamber about what matters to them and their constituencies. The Westminster team were incredibly kind and showed me what a day in the life of an MP and their staff was on the Parliamentary side. I really enjoyed my time there, from a tour of Parliament to bumping into Jeremy Corbyn at Westminster Hall.

I thoroughly enjoyed the five days that I had in both offices, and I feel honoured to be allowed this opportunity. I would definitely urge others to apply as it is a life changing experience, speaking with those people who are running the country and gaining an understanding of why they stand where they do on the spectrum of politics. This has helped me to realise that what is most important is dialogue between both sides.

Lucy Homer, 19, University of St Andrews

My week’s work experience at Victoria Prentis’ office was an insight into the interesting, busy day to day life of an MP. It was an opportunity not only to gain more knowledge of life as an MP and into Parliament, but also to improve my skills in editing, answering questions and creating databases.

My week’s work experience happened not long after the general election meaning it was a busy, exciting time in British politics in general, and also in the Westminster and constituency offices.

I began my week at the constituency office working on a press release about Victoria’s visit to Wyndhall nursing home. It was a daunting task, but there was great satisfaction when my press release was published on the Victoria’s website! The rest of the day consisted of replying to letters and researching information that Victoria needed for meetings later on in the week.

For the next two days I was in the Westminster offices. It was surreal doing work experience in a place where many great politicians have worked in. As well as replying to letters and going through Victoria’s post, I was given the responsibility of doing research for Victoria’s Common’s speech about the Horton General Hospital and Patient Safety. Additionally, I saw a diverse range of debates in the House of Commons, and was given a tour of Westminster.  It was a truly amazing experience providing a unique insight into the thrilling political activity and the running of an MP’s office in Westminster. 

The rest of the week was spent at the constituency office creating a database about housing developments happening in the constituency, doing research and replying to letters. Moreover, I visited a Mosque in Banbury with Victoria and her team. This provided first-hand experience of Victoria interacting with her constituency and understanding their concerns.  It also illustrated the devotion she has to the public she is representing.

Over the week I experienced a wide variety of the work performed by MPs and their staff at Westminster and in the constituency. Everyone I met was extremely friendly, helpful and welcoming, answering any questions I had and engaging in conversation with me. The work experience highlighted how thrilling, interesting and vast politics is. After the week’s experience I feel encouraged to look further into a career in politics. I urge others to apply for this experience because it allows you to see the inner workings of an MP’s life and office.

Amelia Hermon, 17, Blessed George Napier School

I was extremely lucky to be given a place for work experience with Victoria and her team this June. My placement took place only a few weeks after the snap General Election so I was very interested to hear first-hand what the election time period had been like for Parliamentary workers from Victoria’s team, as well as explore the realities of British politics, untainted by a media lens.

On Monday, Thursday and Friday I worked in Victoria’s constituency office in Heyford. During this time I gained an excellent understanding of the true extent of far Victoria’s team go to help their constituents with whatever concerns they may have. I drafted letters replying to constituents ranging on topics on abortions to e-cigarettes to bees which was a variety that I could not have anticipated and really enjoyed. I also created various databases of information to be used which was really useful to develop my time-efficiency and research skills. Perhaps the most interesting tasks were those to draft several press releases for Victoria’s website which were incredibly insightful in understanding all of the events that Victoria regularly attends. On the Friday I accompanied Victoria to a mosque in Banbury which was a really enlightening experience and an interesting way to finish off what had been a really varied and captivating experience.

On the Tuesday and Wednesday I was faced with the imminent prospect of having to travel to Westminster. This was rather daunting as I had never been to London before and my family members were full of horror stories about the Tube system. These all proved to be highly exaggerated and my days in London were probably the highlight of my week. I went from never seeing London at all, to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Houses of Parliament that covered areas that most people will probably never get the opportunity to see. My work in the office was similar to that at the constituency office; reading the mail and drafting emails to constituents. Yet, it seemed very different due to the atmosphere. I really did feel that I was at the heart of political decision making in England.

However, the best part about working in the London office was being able to sit in on some of the debates actually in the Chamber itself or watch them on the screen inside the office. Although I had a pre-existing passion for politics, I am usually unable to watch full debates due to a lack of time and other commitments. This was a perfect opportunity to see governance in action right in front of my eyes. I especially enjoyed watching the Prime Minister’s Questions and Victoria’s own speech on the Patient Health Bill for which I had done research the day before. Seeing MPs stand up and passionately defend their constituencies and policies was a motivating and inspiring experience.

My days in London were also filled with incredible knowledge, both historical and political, incredible and overwhelming. For example, the window in Victoria’s office was actually directly opposite to that of Jeremy Corbyn’s! It was a massive shock to comprehend that I was walking in the buildings where the history of this country’s government has been made. Another experience that really emphasized this was a walk down to the Speaker’s Office, for which we had to pass along Library Corridor. All the walls were lines with bookcases, seemingly for miles, and these bookcases contain every single Act, Amendment and Bill this Government has every passed. I felt really privileged and grateful that I had been able to see such a sight and I know that, simple as it may seem, such an occasion will stay with me for a long time.

This week has been an incredible experience for me, enflaming my love for politics further. One day I hope, I’ll be able to walk down those corridors in Westminster every day after I have completed University, forging a career in politics of my own. For now, I would like to thank Victoria and all her team for an extremely humbling and awe-inspiring opportunity that I am exceptionally grateful for and would highly recommend to anyone considering a career in politics or merely interested in the true reality of how this Government functions day to day.

Luca Filippi, 18, Blessed George Napier School

Victoria with Luca Filippi

Victoria with Luca Filippi in New Palace Yard.

My week of work experience in Victoria’s office has been a great insight into the work of an MP and their staff. It has been fascinating to see how politics works on a local level, a constituency level, in parliament and even the work of a party office. Beginning on Monday, we were introduced to Victoria’s constituency assistant, Stephanie, who showed us around the office and told us about her work. My first task was to compile a database of all the primary schools in the constituency and write to them inviting them to take part in a Christmas card competition which will take place in November. Alongside this, Will and I worked on our main task of the week which was to create an extensive database of Victoria’s recent contacts. With over 1,000 names it was certainly a big task!

On Tuesday we were both invited to Westminster to meet Victoria and her assistant Catharine in their parliamentary office. We were both very excited to see parliament first hand! We made it to London at 9:30 having survived rush hour on the tube and made our way to Portcullis House – the main office building for MPs – where we were greeted by Catharine. On our brief tour in the morning we saw many famous faces, including Andy Burnham, who was sat at the table next to us!

When in the office, we opened mail, responded to constituents and even helped Victoria research a question which she then asked the Chancellor in the chamber. Shortly before lunch, we went to Central Lobby where we saw the Speaker’s procession and we then made our way to the visitor’s gallery above the Commons chamber where Treasury questions were taking place. After lunch, we sat in on two Select Committees; one on the Treasury and one on Home Affairs, where we saw both George Osborne and Theresa May!

For the remainder of the week in the constituency office, we continued with our work of writing letters and briefings for Victoria, continuing with our database and even answering a few phone calls! The main reason I had chosen work experience with an MP was to get a deeper insight of politics, but I had also finished having developed many useful skills of working in an office which I know will come of great help in the future! I would definitely encourage all young people to try and arrange work experience through their MP!

Will Thompson, 17, The Warriner School

Victoria with Will Thompson

Victoria with Will Thompson in New Palace Yard.

Monday:

Monday was my first working day at Heyford Park House. After being introduced to Stephanie and the rest of the team, I started research work for a briefing on Bicester’s “Garden City” plans, which were to be referenced in a later meeting. This involved doing online analysis of data and opinions -from a variety of sources- concerning the project, and assimilating them into a document. I really appreciated the more challenging and important nature of the work I was being set, as it meant I could genuinely learn and benefit from it, unlike many work experience opportunities for people my age. I similarly started work on the ongoing project of a database formulation for use by Victoria, specifically for community projects.

Tuesday:

Tuesday’s work at Portcullis House and at Westminster definitely ranks highly in the most dramatic, and awe-inspiring, experiences of my life. After going through security, we proceeded to Victoria’s Parliamentary office- holding the door for Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham on the way. The open architecture and atmosphere of Portcullis House meant we were able to see many news-worthy politicians working and interacting throughout the day. In the morning, I researched employment statistics for the North Oxfordshire area, for usage in the question Victoria would pose to Damien Hinds, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, later in the day. Seeing the House of Commons in action- with MPs questioning Chancellor George Osborne on his summer budget, referencing issues such as productivity, capital expenditure, and the changes to university maintenance grants- was truly amazing. Back in the office, I worked with Luca to draft a professional response to a letter from a Banbury constituent. I then attended a special committee meeting, featuring politicians including Chancellor George Osborne and Jacob-Rees-Mogg, and focussing on topical issues such as the development of Greenfield and Brownfield land. The day was topped off when I came within a foot of Home Secretary Theresa May, and heard her answer questions on Britain’s support for Tunisia, her viewpoint on Islamic radicalisation and her plans to help resolve the “Calais Crisis”.

Wednesday:

Whilst nothing could be expected to match the splendour of Westminster, on Wednesday I felt I really came to understand more about the role played by Heyford Park House in the community. This was partly through the work I completed, but mostly through the interactions with constituents and colleagues conducted by Stephanie which I observed. Whilst many view the local constituency office as a purely “political” entity, its function became apparent as a more multi-faceted body, with the primary altruistic objective of serving its constituents. Throughout the day- whilst continuing my ongoing work on data base formulation- I drafted an open letter to constituents on a local issue, as well as articles for Victoria’s website, and conducted research in preparation for Victoria’s constituency pub tour.

Thursday:

On Thursday, I experienced the functions and protocols of a working environment to a greater extent. Answering the phone, opening and sorting mail, and learning to navigate a real office printer (for the first time) gave me valuable insight into the everyday workings of an archetypal office; knowledge transferrable to almost all sectors of employment. I further adapted and revised my earlier drafts of web articles, after receiving feedback from colleagues, and attempted to emulate styles of other articles I was provided with.

Tom Webb, 17, The Cooper School

Tom on the Commons’ Terrace at Parliament.

Monday morning, I arrived at the Upper Heyford office to meet Victoria’s constituency office staff. They welcomed me to the office and the first task undertaken was the sticking of new signs on the doors of the office. The day eased me into the workings of the office, and I started to complete small tasks, such as counting flyers and scanning, as well as writing a Press release and a letter to a constituent. My first day got me into the framework of the office, and I returned the next day more confident and at ease.

Tuesday morning, I started off going through cases with Victoria and her staff. This was interesting, for I was able to see how they go through cases on a day to day basis. After this, Victoria and I went on a visit to St Mary’s Church in Banbury, where I was able to see the way that MPs visit places and interact with constituents and engage with local issues. There, I got the opportunity to listen in and take photographs, and went back to the office where I completed the Press release and submitted it for checking. This press release was subsequently published in the Banbury Guardian along with the picture I took. In the afternoon, I had the opportunity to call constituents on the phone and organise appointments for them to see Victoria. I didn’t have much experience with calling people on the phone formally, therefore this was an interesting experience which has helped me with this.

On Wednesday, I took the train into London, and made my way to Portcullis House to see the Westminster side of Victoria’s office. I met Victoria’s Westminster staff, and was taken on a short tour of Portcullis house, where I was able to see what a river-facing office was like, which was exciting. Then I began work in the office, where I replied to emails and other such things. In the afternoon, I got a tour of the Houses of Parliament-to areas I had not seen before, such as the chapel and committee rooms. We then went onto the terrace, and saw the views of the river. It was interesting being in Westminster, since I saw the other side of the work that MPs have to do, on a more national scale.

Thursday morning, I continued working on other letters and emails from the week, continued scanning, and prepared for a meeting the next day, by doing some research on what was required.

Friday morning, I came in a little early to prepare for the meeting, and then got underway with that. After this was over, I returned to my scanning, to make an awful discovery-that I had in fact scanned the previous 500 documents the wrong way up and it was just a blank side that had been scanned! I re-did the task that afternoon, and thankfully this time everything scanned properly! Before beginning the seemingly mammoth task, we went for a wonderful lunch.

My week at Victoria Prentis’ office has been a hugely enjoyable, eye-opening week which has increased my understanding of the internal workings of a MP’s office, and the way that they deal with the public and central government. I have taken away from it; the fact that I would like to pursue a political career, and that I ought to get more involved in local politics while still in school. It has also flagged to me that other work experience placements and internships are key to succeeding in this field.

David Holroyd, 16, Warwick School

In short, my work experience week at Westminster and Heyford Park House has been a tremendously exciting experience all round. I have seen the workings of politics and British Government at different levels from national to local, and I have gained an insightful and intuitive understanding of the tasks done in London and an MP’s constituency.

At the start of the week I began by travelling to Westminster and meeting Victoria’s Parliamentary team, and they assigned me several tasks so that I could get a thorough and varying experience whilst there. As well as learning how to write and answer standard emails, I was given the opportunity to research the potential candidates in the Conservative Party for the next PM. On these two days I was also taken around Westminster to see the House of Commons and a few select committees, as well as witness Victoria present questions herself and take part in the important Governmental process. I was given a useful and exciting time as I saw a diverse range of debates and was given several responsibilities whilst in London, especially in a week with lots of remarkable and thrilling political activity going on.

In my last three days I worked with Victoria’s staff back in the constituency, and I helped with administration by addressing numerous letters, scanning, writing briefings for a House of Commons debate and a meeting with a constituent, as well as creating databases for use in the constituency office.

Over the week I saw a portion of the wide variety of the work performed by MPs and their staff at Westminster and in the constituency, and everyone I met was extremely friendly and helpful. This work experience has highlighted to me the vast potential for a career related to politics, and has assisted me with working out the profession that I would like to pursue in the future. I have learned a variety of skills over the week that will be useful in any career, and I am really glad that I contacted Victoria to arrange this work experience week as it has been some very useful and exciting days.

Beth Rees, 16, Oxford High School

I applied for this work experience in the hope that I would gain a greater insight into the day to day life of an MP, and I have definitely learned not only that, but also many other skills, such as letter writing and commuting, that I know will be very useful later in life.

I did my work experience here less than two weeks after the referendum and I found that there was so much going on during this huge time for British politics; there was never a dull moment! The highlight of my week was definitely visiting the House of Commons: it felt very surreal seeing well-known politicians such as David Cameron, George Osbourne and Boris Johnson just a few metres away. During my time in Westminster, I also had the opportunity to go to some Select Committee meetings and I found these really interesting because I had never sat in on a meeting before and I learned a lot about how they are run. There are a wide variety of committee meetings which means that there is something that everyone will enjoy- I particularly liked going to a meeting on what the impact of the referendum will be on science and technology. I found that by actually being in Westminster, you learn so much more about it than you do reading about it online, for example I thought it was clever that they ring a bell when it’s time for a vote.

I was also lucky enough to visit the constituency office for two days and I found that it was really interesting learning about exactly what an MP does to help his or her constituents.

Overall, it was a fantastic experience and I would urge other people to apply for work experience with an MP because you learn so much about lots of different things and I personally found that it was very different from anything I had done before.

Chelsea Hegarty-Swain, 17, The Cooper School

My work experience week at Victoria’s offices has been tremendously insightful; it was fascinating to observe and experience how politics worked on not only a constituency and local level, but on a parliamentary basis too. The somewhat hectic schedule after the referendum also made my time in Westminster a lot more surreal!

I began by travelling to Portcullis House in Westminster on Monday, where I was warmly welcomed by Victoria’s Parliamentary team. My first task was to open the post and categorise letters – it was so interesting to see the varying level of responses and requests an MP receives. I really liked how Victoria and her team prioritises any queries a constituent may have, by emphasising the need to accommodate and respond to them promptly. This is something you don’t tend to see publicly and I was mesmerised by the efforts that go on behind the scenes in Westminster. I then continued my day by writing press releases entailing the current state of the Conservative leadership contest as well as the Judicial Appointments Commission; a select committee that I intended to go to the next day.

The next day I was able to go into an event and a few Select Committee meetings, including the financial stability report of the Bank of England. This was such a good opportunity in itself as it was fascinating to see how committees are practiced, and seeing what a political career can entail.

During the rest of my week I worked with Victoria’s staff in the constituency office, where I wrote briefings on a motion for debate in the House of Commons; the renewal of Trident. As well as this, I helped create databases for use in the constituency office. On Friday however, I had the opportunity to go to the North Oxfordshire Conservative Association office where I was able to see the conscientious work that goes into helping constituents. I handed out leaflets to constituents in Banbury, informing them about their local councillors; it was so interesting to see and experience the function of politics on a local level.

Overall, my work experience at Victoria Prentis’ offices has been fantastic, it was beyond insightful by seeing the nature of work that goes on in a political career. The list of skills that I have learnt over the week are indefinite (including how to adult… commuting to London was a first!), and something that will help me in the future regardless of what I decide to uptake. I would certainly recommend, and encourage anybody to arrange experiencing the work of an MP with Victoria Prentis!

Shauna Bennett, 17, The Cooper School

I started the week in Victoria’s office in London, I made my way down on the train and underground to Portcullis house where I met Victoria’s Westminster staff. Just being inside the Houses of Parliament was an amazing experience let alone being able to work there for three days. As I did my work experience just four short weeks after the EU referendum and one week after the appointment of our new Prime Minister, I was able to see parliament in full swing and this was exciting. For the first day I spent my time in the office re-writing the huge list of ministerial responsibilities after a cabinet reshuffle by the new Prime Minister Theresa May; this was very interesting and it enabled me to find out all new positions within the cabinet and parliament itself. Being in parliament while the debate on the UK’s nuclear deterrent was taking place was an exciting experience.

On Tuesday I again made my way down to London on the train, today I was lucky enough to watch two debates; one in the chamber itself and another in Westminster hall. The debate I saw in the chamber was very interesting as the effect of the bill in second reading was directly relevant to myself, as it was the Higher Education and Research Bill. Seeing many faces I had only seen on TV before was daunting but also extremely exciting. The second debate in Westminster Hall being: the Contribution of Poles to UK society, this was extraordinary to watch as it gave a clear indication of how many MPs felt very strongly of the topic.

Then again on Wednesday I was in the London offices reading standards, helping draft emails and also accompany the Westminster office staff to a very informative meeting. I was also lucky enough to see a second debate in the Chamber in the House of Commons on Reductions in housing benefit for people in supported housing, as it was opposition day it was the Labour party who brought forward these debates; they were very interesting to watch and some controversial however very relevant topics where brought up and therefore the debate was enthralling.

On Thursday it was my first day in the Constituency office in Heyford House, I was able to meet Victoria and to talk about some relevant issues and also my own views. Within the office I wrote some press releases for Victoria’s website, which gave me knowledge in an area I was not familiar with. We also went for a lovely lunch.

Friday was my last day of my work experience, I spent the day in the constituency office in Heyford House. I spent my time filing and drafting emails on very interesting topics; this was good for me as I had to learn to write about issues which my personal opinion was very different and therefore I learnt a very important new skill of putting forward points from both sides of the argument.

Having the week work experience with Victoria Prentis, my local MP, has been extraordinary. I have been to places and seen things that I never would have been able to, it has been an amazing opportunity and it has really told me that this is the career that I want pursue take after University. This week has also allowed me to develop both my social skills through meeting new and important people and also my skills in the work place; this has been achieved through writing many emails and also arguing many points that may not be my own views. I would recommend to all people to get more involved in local politics and definitely to do a similar work experience if you are interested in the field. My week working in politics has encouraged me to get more involved in my local community such as debates and local meetings. I am very lucky to have had the opportunity to have had a work experience such as with Victoria.
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Victoria with Shauna in the Constituency Office

Izabel Morris, 17, Stratford Girls' Grammar School

I applied for Work experience with Victoria Prentis in order to gain a greater understanding of what a career in politics could entail, as well as to experience the day to day life of British politics. I have loved my time with Victoria’s team who have been extremely welcoming and have done nothing but accelerate my passion for politics.

I took part in work experience during the summer recess, despite this, there was still so much going on in both the Heyford Park office and her Westminster office at Portcullis House.

On Monday and Tuesday I was in the Heyford Park office where my first task was to help compile a local database in order to help Victoria with her unique ‘pub tours’. I found the idea of her pub tours fascinating and an amazing thing for an MP to do as it allows her to make a personal connection with the people and communities that she strives to help. I then had the chance to do some research and write a briefing based on an email received from a constituent about the political and social atrocities in China, which was something I was unaware of prior to my time in the office. This was fascinating for me as it opened my eyes to what’s going on around the world, and how it connects to our country and politics. Furthermore it allowed me to have an insight into the sorts of things constituents contact their MP about, and it was a pleasure to see the constituent being listened to and something being done.

On Wednesday I travelled down to Westminster where I was welcomed by Victoria’s team at Portcullis House. The contrast between the two offices was interesting for me as it showed the two different sides to the MP; the Heyford office being the link to the people and the Westminster office connecting Victoria to the policies. At Westminster I was given the task to go through the oral question sessions and to compile a table of MPs opinions on transport issues in order to aid Victoria in her recently appointed role as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Transport Ministers. I found it fascinating to see what has really been said in Parliament.

Overall my time in Victoria’s offices has been exceptional and not only have I had an interesting time carrying out tasks and research, the advice and expertise that her team can give is priceless. I leave this work experience with a clearer understanding of the realities of British politics and with the inspiration to continue into a career in politics.

Thank you for the experience!

Olly Daly, 16, Radley College

When I arrived at the Constituency office on Tuesday, Victoria’s staff were very welcoming and kind. Unfortunately, I had picked the one week when Victoria was on holiday and with parliament in recess during my few days, I was worried there was not going to be much to do. How wrong I was. The morning was filled compiling a database of all schools in the constituency. The afternoon was especially exciting though as I gathered various facts about the Syrian conflict for Victoria’s trip to Jordan later this year.

On Wednesday, I travelled down to London and spent the day in Portcullis House in Victoria’s parliamentary office. I spent my time collecting and summarising oral questions on Transport for Victoria due to her recent appointment as Parliamentary Private Secretary. I was also kindly given a tour round the Palace of Westminster in the afternoon.

On my final day, I returned to the Constituency office and went through a series of case on various issues including e-cigarettes, prescription charges and local development proposals. Over the course of the 3 days, I have learnt a huge amount and have not stopped enjoying it. It is a real experience that is incredibly useful for the future as you can cover a range of different subjects. I thank Victoria and her staff for looking after as well as entertaining me over the course of my work experience. I would recommend this to anyone interested.

Ned Fiennes, 17, Eton College

When I decided to do work experience with Victoria I never expected to enjoy it as much as I did. Deciding to do any work during the holidays, let alone four days of it, would usually be seen as an unnecessary stress that one would place on themselves, however, it is safe to say that with Victoria and her crew I had an absolutely fascinating and enjoyable week of experiencing the heart of politics at both a local and national scale.

The first day I spent was in the constituency office where I helped her staff to deal with issues and queries raised by Victoria’s local constituents. It quickly became clear that the role of Victoria and her staff in the office entailed problem solving and actively engaging with the people of North Oxfordshire and it was great to spend the day completely involved in helping people of the local community. I wrote both letters and emails to concerned locals, touching on issues from housing to the usage of e-cigarettes, and it felt fantastic to be able to help to alleviate some of the worries faced by the community.

I then spent the next three days experiencing the thrills of Westminster, experiencing the constant movement and work that goes on behind the scenes of Parliament. The time I spent there was varied and covered all aspects of Victoria’s everyday life in the House of Commons, from watching her introduce her first ever bill to witnessing the huge amounts of organisation that goes into the Singing for Syrians charity.

The entire time I spent with Victoria and her team was completely engrossing and I loved every minute I worked in both the constituency office and the office in Parliament. I would highly recommend the experience to anybody who wants to gain a glimpse into what the role of an MP entails and into the very heart of British politics. A special thanks must go to Victoria and her team for being so accommodating and putting up with me for a week despite their jam-packed schedules!