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Tables turn, as pupils AV a go at teaching

Teachers at Springburn Academy had the tables turned on them this week when they were on the receiving end of a lesson on the complexities of the alternative voting system.

The 16 Higher modern studies pupils-turned-teachers were split into three teams - one on why to "vote yes", another advocating "vote no" and a third explaining the background to democracy, electoral systems and the distribution of power.

All had prepared handouts outlining the main points of their arguments for staff; they then ran a workshop for teachers.

Jayne Ashley, faculty head of social studies, who organised the event, said the purpose was not to persuade teachers to vote a certain way, but to allow them to make their minds up in an informed manner when they took part in yesterday's referendum.

While AV is not a formal part of the Higher curriculum, the "first past the post" and proportional representation systems are.

The project had boosted pupils' confidence as they delivered a reasoned argument in front of their teachers and adjusted their teaching methods by adding examples and spontaneously drawing diagrams. "It helps them consolidate their own learning; it is about building a community within the school; and, most importantly, it is about political education," said Ms Ashley.

Steffi Owens, one of the fifth-year pupils who explained the advantages of the current "first past the post" system to staff, said: "I was not really surprised they knew so little; it is not something people would have taken an interest in because it only came up this year."

Teachers said they were impressed with the depth of knowledge the pupils had acquired and their ability to present it to them.

"I thought it was really good - and I did learn something. The `yes group' were a bit more persuasive, mainly because they had a lot of statistics at their fingertips," said Kath Smith, principal teacher of English.

One pupil impressed her by being able to recall the percentage of votes the Liberal Democrats acquired in the last general election, compared to the number of seats they won - an example of the disproportionality of FPTP, she said.

The event was part of a range of events organised by the modern studies department to mark the Scottish election, culminating in a mock election on Wednesday.

S3 pupils ran as candidates for the major parties, which required them, as well as their classmates, to research the parties and prepare a speech and campaign materials. They took part in hustings events for all year groups and pupils voted at their own polling stations; maths pupils assisted in the count. The election was carried out according to the "additional members system", another alternative to FPTP.

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