Politics and International Relations

Government and Politics is a relatively new subject at Rugby. Public examinations were first taken in 1989. In 1991 there were 14 candidates, 28 in 1997, 32 in 2001 and 33 students sat the A2 examination in 2009. The size of the department fluctuataes between 50 and 60 pupils. Government and Politics is only taught in the sixth form and there are no plans in the near future to introduce it to the Lower School. It means that virtually all pupils, including the Sixth Form entrants, start from the same position; namely "no experience of the subject as an academic discipline is needed". The Department has a wide range of ability from Oxbridge candidates to those who just cover the School’s GCSE hurdle for Upper School entrance. In 2010 the best ever results were recorded with 95 per cent recording A* to B and 43 per cent being awarded A* grades. In 2011, before any re-marks, the percentage scoring A* to B grades was 79 per cent.

Government & Politics at Rugby follows the AQA syllabus for those taking the American Politics option and the Edexcel syllabus for those taking the Global Politics (International Politics) route. American Politics (Gov. 3A & 4A – AQA) and Global Politics (Route D – Edexcel) are taught in the XX year.  For those opting to take the American option, the aim of the subject is to develop an understanding of political ideas and concepts, as well as how individuals, parties and groups seek to win power and/or influence in the United Kingdom and the United States. The course also explains how the political processes and institutions in the two countries compare. A study of the nature of the UK’s relationship with the European Union, and an understanding of how the EU’s institutions operate, will be conducted towards the end of the LXX year. Global Politics (International Relations) examines key global political structures and systems, major issues in recent global politics and how these issues are dealt with at an international/global level.

There are no formal requirements of any kind. Most students begin the course with no previous study or knowledge of politics.  It is important, however, that students are interested in current affairs.  Students will be expected to regularly read the broadsheets and/or political magazines such as 'The Economist' and to watch political programmes such as 'Newsnight'.  Keeping up to date via the Internet, mainstream media websites, blogs, etc., is also expected. The department records programmes of interest centrally.

Strong performances in History and English at GCSE level are good indicators of an aptitude for Politics A-level. A good grade in the latter at GCSE is essential as writing short answers and essays form an integral part of the course and determine examination success.  There is no coursework; assessment is entirely based on examinations at the end of two years study. Pupils choose the subject in combination with almost all other A-Levels although it is often combined with study of Economics, History and English. Politics students go on to study a variety of disciplines at university, including of course Politics. Those thinking of taking a law degree, or perhaps hoping to gain a legal qualification after their undergraduate studies, will find A-level Politics very useful indeed. An appreciation of the political environment in which business, science, medicine and religion operate is very much valued by employers. An A-level in Politics will assist pupils to gain such an appreciation.

Professor David Denver, Dr. Anthony Bennett, Fergal Keane, Lord Strathclyde, a representative from the Electoral Reform Society and Dr Andrew Preston (Cambridge University). Elvin Dowling, former Chief of Staff to Marc Morial, President of the National Urban League, visited us from New York in May 2010. Authors Alistair Jones and Tristram Riley-Smith were guest speakers at the Politics Society in the 2010 Advent term. Professor Geddes of Warwick University spoke on the campaign to stop the building of the high speed rail link between London and the north (Lent 2011). Dr Moran and Dr Andrew Wroe delivered lectures on developments in American politics in the first half of 2012. Sarah Sands, editor of the ‘Evening Standard’, addressed the society on press freedom (February 2012). Local councillors and prospective parliamentary candidates are invited to the School every other year and previous local MPs have spoken on several occasions. All members of the Department are invited and, on most occasions, meetings are open to the rest of the Upper School and staff. School-wide mock elections take place at the time of UK general elelctions, EU parliamentary elections and US presidential elections. These elections are run by the Politics Society. A ‘Rugby Parliament’ has been established with sessions being held in the OBS or Sheriff House dining room each term. A politics film club shows two politically-related films per term.

Past trips to the US have involved a tour of the U.S. Supreme Court, a visit to the National Archives, a tour of Congress, including meetings with U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (WI-1) and the staff of the Senate Small Business Committee, a tour of the White House, meetings with a lobbyist, members of the Tea Party and representatives of a pressure group (Americans for Prosperity) and a tour of the monuments. En route to New York we typically stop off in Philadelphia to view Independence Hall and then on to New York, where amongst other things, we have visited the United Nations, the 9/11 memorial and met with Ed McNally, a former legal advisor to President George W. Bush and the Department of Homeland Security, and Professor Niall Ferguson.

The trip to Westminster in February of each year involves a tour of the Palace of Westminster, access to PMQs for many students, experience of select committees in action, a meeting with the MP for Rugby and culminating with a tour of the UK’s Supreme Court, where apart from observing cases we have had private question and answer sesions with Lord Hope, deputy president of the court and an old boy of Rugby School.

The Department runs the Model United Nations (MUN) society, which involves pupils from Politics and also the wider School community. Residential MUN conferences are attended at least once a year, most recently at Haileybury.