'Excuse me, Mr Chirac, but this is what we want'

8th July 2005 at 01:00
"We can't guarantee your safety if you leave here."

These were among the first words pupils heard on arriving in Edinburgh from schools in the UK, Germany, Italy, France, Russia, Japan and the United States this week.

But the 95 students gathered at Edinburgh university had no intention of heading into the city centre, where protesters were clashing with riot police. The 14 to 16-year-olds had a job to do.

They had to thrash out a communique on climate change and Africa in time to hand over to Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday morning at Gleneagles before the G8 summit.

J8 was launched in November 2004 by the Department for Education and Skills and Morgan Stanley investment bank. And schoolchildren from 50 UK schools submitted their message to the gathering of the world's most influential leaders.

Charlotte Pearson, a Year 10 pupil from Calthorpe Park school, Hampshire, said: "What is good about this summit is that we are being listened to and not being told we are just kids."

Pina Scalera, a teacher at the Liceo Galvani, in Bologna, Italy said: "I think the G8 leaders will look at the communique for the novelty factor and the audacity of it. It is a bit like Oliver Twist asking for more porridge.

Excuse me Mr Chirac: this is what I think."

On Monday, students heard talks from experts on climate change and Africa, including Myles Wickstead, head of the secretariat for the Africa Commission. On Tuesday, the J8 pupils handed over their communique to Jacqui Smith, school standards minister, and Jack McConnell, Scotland's first minister.

Patrick Farnon, a 15-year-old pupil from St Colman's college, in County Down, was among those handing the document to Mr Blair on Wednesday morning.

"The G8 leaders would be stupid not to listen to us," he said. "The students here know what they're talking about. Anything put forward will be valid. When I hand it over, I am going to tell Mr Blair it is a good read."

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