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Advice for Starting Out on Politics A Level

Scott Thomas

7th September 2016

Last year I blogged the original post titled 'Advice from my Politics teacher to you' and I thought it would be rather appropriate to reblog it at the start of the academic year again!

When I was a student of A Level Politics, my Politics teacher gave us all some very important advice. It is this advice which made the study of A Level Politics, that bit easier and fully allowed me to appreciate the hugely complex but fascinating world of politics. This advice was so helpful for me that I want to pass this onto you so you can all benefit!

The first lesson I ever had at sixth form college was Politics. I had never studied Politics before this point, save for the GCSE Citizenship that I completed in Year 9. Once we had all settled into our class, our teacher at the time declared the Politics golden rule. It is quite simply:

Live the Subject

Students who follow this rule are putting themselves in good stead to succeed in A Level Politics. There are several ways you can do this and luckily enough for you I have some tips and tricks to allow you to fulfil this rule.

1.Read quality newspapers

a.This means read newspapers from across the political spectrum, not just ones that align with your political views. Quality newspapers are defined as; The Times, The Telegraph, The Financial Times, The Guardian, and the Independent. Reading a cross section of these will allow you gain a broad insight into the views of both left and right commentators

2.Bring the News to you

.Take the work out of finding the political stories and let them come directly to you. Most newspapers have email updates that you can sign up to. I have included a selection of them here, but I can personally recommend the Times RedBox and CoffeeHouse from the Spectator.

i.The Times RedBox

ii.The Telegraph Morning Briefing

iii.Spectator Lunchtime Espresso

iv.Spectator CoffeeHouse

v.Guardian Today UK

3.Use Twitter Extensively

.Twitter is filled with newspapers, politicians, other politics teachers and commentators. It houses a wealth of political thought, opinion and comment. Why not check twitter each morning on your way into school or college and get fully caught up in the political world.

4.Watch Political Programming

.UK Television is filled with programmes all brimming with politics, so take your pick and find the programmes you love most. My favourite would be the Daily Politics and Question Time. I have included a brief list of suggested programmes for you to watch

.The Daily Politics (BBC Monday-Friday Lunchtime)

i.The Sunday Politics (BBC Sunday Morning)

ii.Andrew Marr Show (BBC Sunday Morning)

iii.Question Time (BBC Thursday Evening)

iv.The Agenda (ITV) - Likely to return in 2016

v.This Week (BBC after Question Time)

vi.Sky News Murnaghan (Sky News Sunday Morning)

vii.Peston on Sunday (ITV, Sunday Morning)

Political TV: Clockwise: House of Cards UK, Yes Minister, The West Wing, Alpha House, House of Cards US, The Thick of It

5.Watch Political Dramas

.Be warned some of these will take a certain amount of artistic license but they can be useful for explaining key concepts and showing how various systems work

.Yes Minister

i.Yes Prime Minister

ii.The Thick of It

iii.House of Cards [UK Edition]*

iv.House of Cards [US Version]*

v.The West Wing

vi.Alpha House*

vii.* Available on Netflix ** Available on Amazon Prime

6.Watch Political Films

.There are a wealth of political films out for you to watch as well, there is nothing better than settling down after a long week at college and putting on one of these fantastic films.

.The Deal: All about the power struggle for New Labour between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair

i.The Special Relationship: All about the relationship between Bill Clinton and Tony Blair

ii.The Iron Lady: Need I say more!

iii.Coalition: Channel 4 drama/film about the makings of the 2010-2015 Coalition

iv.All the President's Men - Watergate

v.Frost/Nixon - Cinematic version of the Watergate revelations

vi.JFK - The Story of the Kennedy Presidency

7.Read Well, Write Well

.The more you read quality pieces of work, the more your writing will benefit, the same is true if you read inferior quality work then your writing will suffer. Don't give an examiner the chance to mark you down over poor writing quality.

Hopefully this will guide you to being the best politics student you can be! Don't forget this list is not exhaustive and there is plenty more out there for you find!

Above all I hope you enjoy your course and continue to have an interest in politics!

Scott Thomas

Scott is Subject Lead for History at Tutor2u, and works full time as a teacher of History. He has examined for Edexcel and holds a joint degree in History and Politics from Newcastle University

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