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Our politicians need to go back to school

Sean McPartlin is depute head of St Margaret's Academy in Livingston

"They're all the same", "They're just out for themselves"

and "I just ignore them" are some of the more polite comments offered in relation to our politicians.

Indeed, a look at the turnout in recent elections, at all levels of the democratic process, would suggest that there is a growing gap between the political classes and those who are asked to elect them.

In our school, however, we have recently had a rush of political activity, which has given pupils and staff cause for thought.

Our MP visited in the company of Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, and our modern studies students had the opportunity to cover subjects such as apartheid, the Irish peace process, the Labour Party deputy leadership contest and the constitutional arrangements between Westminster and Holyrood.

Later in the week, our senior awards were presented by our newly elected MSP and our local councillors attended the graduation ceremony. In addition, hustings for our head boy and head girl elections are about to commence, and our pupil council is busy contributing to various changes planned for the coming session.

However, even without these events, it would be difficult for any school to ignore the impact that politicians at all levels have on pupils' education.

Quite simply, the political process decides the priorities and trends in our educational establishments - they set the parameters within which we are required to operate.

We encourage our pupils to become motivated in a political direction and to play a civic role. Whether it is through our global citizenship events, our links with schools in Africa, visits to Holyrood, or the internal politics of pupil councils and parental focus groups, we attempt to show them politics in action. We are rewarded by our pupils being active in the Scottish Youth Parliament, Youth Voice, Young Scot and a number of other organisations. We see it as an extension of our school values of mutual respect and concern for others.

However, our pupils tell us - quite rightly - that respect is a two-way process. I have a feeling that the more the pupils get to see politicians, and the more our elected representatives come into our schools and interact with the students, the more that mutual respect will grow.

The welcome mat is out.

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