Ted's teaching tips

18th May 2001 at 01:00
Will the GLA building, next to the Tower of London, be a symbol of metropolitan defiance against national politicians, as was the GLC's County Hall when it was across the river from Parliament? Do tomorrow's citizens know how decisions are made in society?

Local power

Who makes the important decisions about our daily lives (local and national politicians)? How do people become politicians (we elect them to local councils, or to Parliament)? What do local and national politicians decide on (Parliament makes laws and decides national policy on education, health, foreign affairs, and so on; local councillors decide some of the detail, such as traffic schemes, housing)? Who makes the decisions in education (government decides the curriculum, testing, and so on; councils have less responsibility, for example on admissions, special needs; schools (role of governors) decide how to spend their money, and decisions about teaching)? Who is Ken Livingstone (mayor of London, a new style of mayor, supposed to have more power; United States and other countries have well-known figures as mayor - New York, Chicago)? Why is he controversial (former leader of the GLC which Mrs Thatcher abolished; Labour MP who often disagrees with the Government; stood against Frank Dobson, the "official" Labour candidate)?

Political conflict

Why are there arguments between local and national government (national government may be one party, local council another; they may disagree about what should be done, as in the case of the London Underground)? Why is there a row about the Tube (needs expensive improvements government wants to involve private companies, mayor wants a publicly controlled and funded scheme)?

Modern buildings

Are you a traditionalist (preferring classical pillars, Georgian houses, Gothic churches) or a modernist (appreciating colour, irregular shapes, different materials)? What unusual buildings can you think of (Sydney Opera House, the Dome, local examples) and what do you think of them? Prince Charles has spoken out about modern buildings, calling one a "monstrous carbuncle": do you think he should?


Stage a mock election, as close to the real thing as possible, with candidates producing a manifesto, making speeches, people voting, announcing the winner. Many young people do not vote in elections; write why you would, or would not, vote if you were over 18.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at the University of Exeter


* Do we need a separate local government, or would it be more efficient to have local branches of the national government?


We need politicians who understand local issues because they are on the spot, not miles away. Councillors know people in their ward better than MPs, who have to live in London to attend Parliament. Local government can help check a national government that is out of touch, or too powerful.


Local councillors cannot see the bigger picture, they take a parochial view. They have little power because Parliament makes the decisions and decides the law. There is inconsistency; hundreds of councils make decisions, and are too small to be efficient.

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