My name is Emily Grantham and I am a year 12 student at the Kings of Wessex academy. My work experience week was Monday 8th of July – Friday 12th July and during this time I not only learned a great deal about office work but also about the town I live in and how the town council works to keep that town running. I chose to do my work experience at Burnham and Highbridge town council as I want to do criminology at university and my experience at the council contributes to the social side of criminology.
My week began with an introduction to Lorna W, Sally and Lorna B who work in the office and Sam, the town clerk. Lorna W then showed me around the town council building. The building is a lot bigger than I expected. I thought the main courtroom where council meetings are held was very impressive as the raised area for the judge was still there and it gave the whole room a very official vibe. I found the old photos of the town council that lined the corridor very interesting as they dated all the way back to 1908. After the orientation I was given some time to type up my timetable for the week. After that, Lorna W and I had the task of locating 8 dog bag dispensers around Burnham and filling them up with new dog bags. The dispensers were part of a scheme that is attempting to keep Burnham clean by giving dog owners no excuse not to pick up their dog’s mess. Selecting the best way for the bags to be easily dispensed was tricky but I came up with the best solution so they could be easily pulled out. After lunch I had the task of organising the stationary cupboard and during this time Sam, the Town Clerk, came in to chat with me about criminology and what I planned to do after university as she had a background in the criminal justice system. Afterwards Lorna B showed me how to set up the courtroom for the council meeting in the evening.
On Tuesday morning Sam’s husband Martin, who is an advocate, came in to explain his job and talk with me about the criminal justice system. I thought it was very interesting and he recommended a book for me to read that gives further insight into the life of a barrister and the criminal justice system, which will be useful for doing a criminology degree. After that I spent a while trying to find the planning permission for finger posts that are around town, within folders full of old council documents. For the rest of the day I downloaded planning applications off of the council website ready for the planning meeting on Wednesday night and I updated the current mayor and chairman list with contact information and even managed to fit in a bit of filing and shredding old papers.
On Wednesday I visited the Princess theatre, which is owned by the council, with Sally to get the finances, we also went to the post office to post some letters. When we got back to the office Lorna W explained her role as clerk to the Burial Committee. She showed me old maps of Burnham and Highbridge cemeteries and the books that contain information of all the burials in each cemetery. She explained that the committee is currently trying to digitalise burial records and figure out who is buried where in the oldest part of Highbridge cemetery where most of the grave stones no longer exist. Afterwards we set up the courtroom for the planning meeting later that evening which I attended. It was my job to bring up the specific parts of the plans that the chairman was explaining. I thought the thought process of the committee and the different factors they had to consider before coming to a decision on each application was very interesting.
On Thursday I visited the Princess theatre again for a tour. Craig explained the different community events that are held in the theatre and that it is mostly run by volunteers. He also showed me the community café. Afterwards I started to type up my dairy and Lorna W set me the task of finding a specific person in the burial records that had been buried in Burnham cemetery with only the name and a rough date of the 50s to go off, which I did successfully. In the afternoon I visited the council allotments in Highbridge with Lorna B, where we were observing how well kept each allotment was. After that we visited Highbridge cemetery as I was interested in the very old section from when it first opened in 1886. Most of the memorials in the old section had been broken over the years but a good few were still standing. When we got back to the office I copied up the minutes from the planning meeting.
On Friday I laminated posters to be put up on the council notice boards throughout Burnham and continued typing up my diary. After lunch I went round the town with Tommy to replace old posters with new ones. We also went to Manor Gardens to take the flag from armed forces day down.
Overall, my experience at the Town council was varied and fascinating. I learnt a lot about topics I didn’t know much about, like finances and planning, and other topics I was very intrigued by, like the burial committee. Sam, Lorna, Lorna and Sally were warm and welcoming and made my time here enjoyable and engaging and I am thankful for the experience.