On the 21st November 2013, a couple of hundred sixth formers filed in to Centenary Theatre for the first organised keynote speaker. Excitement was high for this widely anticipated (and compulsory) event. As pupils and the occasional politically minded parent took their seats, Natalie Bennett (leader of the Green Party) and Mr. Bond (Head teacher turned chat show host) made themselves comfortable on stage in preparation for a Q&A session.
Ms. Bennett introduced herself as a self-acknowledged feminist from the age of 5 as a consequence of being refused a bike as it would not be ‘ladylike’ to have one. This naturally brought a round of supporting applause in comradeship from the girls of the audience. Dishearteningly, though, an agitated voice from the back of the room who questioned the need of feminism in an age when men were more often than not wrong, brought a cheer from the majority of the male viewers. However, we will have to assume that the questioner did not realise that feminism is about the equality of sexes, not the superiority of females and also that the cheers were merely in response to a potentially controversial topic. Either way, Bennett was able to display her passion for equality through her careful and controlled rebuttal.
Not being a Member of Parliament herself, it allows Natalie the time and flexibility to look after her party and also follow other opportunities. However, this somewhat unusual circumstance often leads to her being confused for Caroline Lucas, the Green Party’s only current MP. Bennett insisted that she didn’t mind not being the most high profile member of the party as it allowed her to attend events such as this at Berkhamsted, where Lucas would have been otherwise engaged in Parliament; Bennett’s other pursuits included being a Governor at a State School. The revelation of this provided a platform of lively discussion between the speaker and audience, over the pros and cons of a private education over a comprehensive one. Despite attending a private school in her home country of Australia, Natalie Bennett believed the country would find it advantageous to only have state schools in order to promote equality of opportunities. She condemned the fee-paying schools that name themselves as ‘charities’, but were less than charitable and more often run as businesses; an interesting view to express to the members of the charitable, private Berkhamsted School.