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Politicians are pants, claim pupils

They might be in charge of looking after children's education but when it comes to communicating with them effectively, politicians have been given an E for effort.

Pupils found that MPs were rude, evasive and over-dressed, a report from the Department for Education and Skills reveals. It said MPs should take lessons on how to talk to young people.

The pupils' disillusionment was uncovered in a study which evaluated a series of meetings held last summer between children and MPs. More than 450 young children and teenagers met with 17 MPs as part of the Ministerial Listening Tour.

Some pupils complained that the politicians who turned up for the tour were not famous or influential enough. One pupil suggested that the event would have been better if it had been attended by the Education Secretary Charles Clarke.

"No offence to the ministers that came, but they weren't really in the Cabinet," he said.

Misdemeanours by the politicians, who are not identified, included whispering to adults while pupils asked questions, leaving early without an apology or explanation, and gazing blankly at the young people as if they were not there.

The children had been invited to set the ground rules and a dress code before the events. However, when casual dress was agreed, the ministers usually ignored it and wore suits. This irritated several pupils who said that the politicians' clothes distanced them from the audience. One minister retorted that when he met pensioners he did not try to dress like them.

The National Centre for Social Research, which carried out the analysis, concluded that the events were, overall, a success. But it recommends that some ministers should undergo training in how to deal with young people.

The youngsters involved did not escape criticism from the MPs. One minister said: "I expected cynicism from the kids but it was way beyond cynicism.

"It was a presumption that you're engaged in work which involves deceit, spinning and personal ambition."

Ted Wragg 32 Tour feedback at www.dfes.gov.uk

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