Politicians return for a grilling

22nd February 2008 at 00:00
Politicians just keep coming back for more, writes Douglas Blane

It's a robustness for which modern studies teacher Laura Forrester has reason to be grateful. All of the still-sitting MSPs who subjected themselves to a grilling last year in the Question Time event she organised at Hyndland Secondary in Glasgow have agreed to a return performance.

"So we'll have Bill Aitken (Scottish Conservative), Robert Brown (Liberal Democrat), Patrick Harvie (Green Party) and Sandra White (Scottish National Party)," she says.

Pauline McNeill (Labour), who sent a substitute last year, will appear in person this time, and the event will be chaired on the morning of March 7 by Strathclyde University's prominent political commentator John Curtice.

"The pupils are upbeat about that, because at Higher we look at a number of his publications on voting systems and behaviour, and they know his face from television."

Panel members will once again not be told the questions in advance - a cause of considerable tension in the BBC programme. Reading the newspapers even more assiduously than usual is vital preparation for participants, who should not be surprised this year by questions on funding of political parties and Glasgow gangs.

Last year's Question Time, held in the school library, generated a great deal of energy and involvement from a packed audience of senior pupils - which began before the event, with brainstorming and selection of questions, and continued well after it, says Ms Forrester.

"Some of those who didn't get to ask their questions wrote to the MSPs and got responses. They were also keen afterwards to enter the BBC Schools Question Time competition, which we'll be doing again this year.

"It all generates a lot of interest and discussion, which is educationally valuable. Some pupils want to ask international questions about, say, China and human rights, which we study. Others are keen to look at local issues.

"We will be doing it all again next year, when we'll maybe think about inviting some people who aren't politicians, as they do on BBC. But I don't know. Our politicians are good."

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