Marlowes in the making

15th February 2008 at 00:00
Pint-sized amateur sleuths are about to start roaming the country and asking adults some awkward questions, writes Henry Hepburn.

They want to get to the root of an age-old mystery: "Why isn't there more for us to do?"

They will come armed with a "detective kit" that's the brainchild of Scotland's children's commissioner Kathleen Marshall and her office, which had carried out research showing that a lack of things to do was the biggest concern for young people, squeezing even bullying into second place.

The kit encourages older primary children to find out what there is in their area, what there is a lack of, and what they can do to change things. It aims to stir enthusiasm by tapping into the kudos of the fictional gum-shoe. The distinctive resources feature cartoon images of a Chandleresque crime-solver, with half-shut sceptical eyes and the de rigueur trench coat and fedora. A detective's badge should lend kudos to the quest for truth and justice in the realm of recreational opportunities.

As her part of the bargain, Mrs Marshall will collate the results and take up the issues with MSPs. There will also be prizes for the best detectives.

There are six main stages to investigations:

- marking what there is to do in the local area on a map;

- working out which activities are free of charge;

- comparing the situation to "the olden days"; were there more things to do back then?

- drawing up a wish list;

- figuring out what's stopping the wish list from being realised;

- "closing the case": in other words, taking action, perhaps by organising an exhibition and inviting the local MSP to come along.

"The idea was to help children take forward their ideas about the things they'd like to be able to do, but also to raise awareness of our office," Mrs Marshall said.

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