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Children call the shots on new commissioner

Should the new children's commissioner for England communicate with young people by text message, have a website with an interactive forum, or meet young people face to face?

Should he or she be in their 20s or 30s, so they can relate to children, or in their 40s or 50s, with more life experience? And what major issues need to be examined?

These are some of the issues debated by students from 10 English schools on the HeadsUp forum, a website run by the Hansard Society to get young people involved in political debate.

England's 11.3 million young people will get their own commissioner by the end of 2005. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland already have commissioners.

Students taking part in the web debate said they wanted England's commissioner to like children, be friendly, understanding and someone they could have a laugh with, who does not get stressed or shout.

But they disagreed on the ideal age for the commissioner.

There was also disagreement on how the commissioner should communicate with young people, as some students expressed fears about lack of access to the internet and mobile phone texts. One participant said: "A good reason for not using texts is that people don't really want to receive texts from the Government."

Pupils said the commissioner should tackle issues ranging from bullying, sex education, drug abuse and racism, to the age limits for drinking alcohol, driving a car, voting and school management.

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