Children and Politics: Should Children have access to learning about the UK voting systems and party manifestos?
With the upcoming General Election progressing faster than initially scheduled to strengthen Britain’s plans to exit the European Union, many parents and teachers are arguing that school children should have access to learning about the General Election and what it all means. Schools are under no obligation to teach about the GE, the voting system in the UK and Northern Ireland nor the different parties currently dominating British politics. Some people think that pupils should have an official political element in the National Curriculum, considering the impact the Elections have on the country in which they live. Branwen Jefferies of the BBC claims that, ‘education is also going to be a key battleground’ (Jefferies, 2017) in current Prime Minister Teresa May’s Manifesto. It concerns the creation of more grammar schools, a controversial direction for education given her opposition claim it will further divide the class systems in Britain.
However, education has also taken many cuts in the manifestos with schools ‘across the country [sic] have written to parents setting out the difficult decisions they face in order to balance their books’ (Jefferies, 2017), namely cutting a lot of staff, directly affecting the quality of the teaching experience pupils will face. This information is available readily across the media formats, however people believe schools and the government have an obligation to teach their children of the importance of understanding British politics, the current GE and its candidates.
This might however, place a lot of additional pressure on an already struggling education system, with teachers and Newly Qualified Teachers leaving at an alarming rate. The government created an interesting online tool for teachers to use should the school include politics in their curriculum, the ‘Elections and Voting – whiteboard resource’ enables the teacher to hold an election within her class to aid the pupils in understanding the complexity and importance of voting in such elections. The system easily compares the classes’ results with that of the rest of their schools, their surrounding areas and the rest of the country, an excellent tool to aid teachers, is it enough however?
Mother Adina Thompson told BBC Radio 5 she ‘believes it’s the responsibility of mothers to teach their children about why they need to vote and the ‘implications behind not voting’. She explained to her eight-year-old-son that voting “changes everything around your life”. She added that she believes not talking about voting could lead to him being disengaged from politics later in life’.
Whether it is the responsibility of the parent(s) or school is almost a question that needs to be answered by the government. Children have a right to be in a safe, and happy environments at school with access to further resources for SEN children. They do however, have the right to be informed of important British political systems so that they can easily arrange and focus on their own development and ideology, changing the future of this country considering knowledge is power. The education sector is greatly affected by the GE, teachers, teaching assistants and schools as well as parents and pupils are all under a lot of pressure; perhaps it is time to place a magnifying glass onto the political systems and teach children of the importance and histories of British General Elections.
A.Thompson. (10/05/17) BBC Radio 5. BBC News: Education. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/education-39864928/mum-im-teaching-my-kids-about-voting
Jefferies. (18/05/17) BBC News: Education. What does an early election mean for England’s schools? Available At: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-39204674
Elections and Voting – whiteboard resource: http://www.parliament.uk/education/teaching-resources-lesson-plans/elections-and-voting-whiteboard/