A vote of no confidence

24th January 2014 at 00:00

Monday 6 January 2014. My first day back in the classroom with 22 groaning S4s awaiting my next move. I threw them a curveball. "OK, guys," I said, "what significant events are taking place this year?"

They were expecting me to moan about the lack of homework completed over the holidays so that woke them up. After a beat, hands shot up around the room. Promising, I thought. Then voices excitedly chimed in with: "It's the Commonwealth Games, Miss!" Brilliant, I thought to myself. They seemed clued up. One even went so far as to exclaim: "Yeah, Miss, I got tickets. Excited.com."

"And what else is happening this year?" I enquired. Silence. I changed tack. "Well, let me ask who will be 16 by 18 September?" Everyone's hands shot up. "So," I said, "what will you be allowed to do then?" Hands were raised again, albeit more slowly and uncertainly. A-ha! I'd hit the right mark. "Is it I can quit school, Miss?" one student asked eagerly. "Naw," retorted another, "it's that you can legally have sex, sure it is." The whole class broke down.

And there you have it. I was standing in front of 22 potential voters in the referendum on Scottish independence and they plainly didn't have a clue. The date meant nothing to them. Their role in Scotland's future is as real to them as the Loch Ness monster.

It seems outrageous to me that these children have been given the right to vote but none of the responsibility that goes with it. They are ill-informed. Where are the Scottish MPs coming into schools and delivering their party political message? Or are they simply relying on parents to inform their children of how to vote? And in that case, do they provide an understanding of both sides of the argument as they offer a choice to their child? I'm not convinced.

It falls to me and teachers like me, then, to ensure that these children are armed with all the facts to enable them to make an educated and informed decision ("Is independence debate too hot to handle in class?", 17 January), just as we are having to teach new Nationals. Less "excited.com", more "strugglingtocope.com".

Eleanor Wood, Teacher of English and drama.

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