Sixth formers are volunteers

Yesterday, speaking to a sixth form in a school in my constituency, I tried a new approach to combat negative feelings about politics.

I reminded my audience that they were all volunteers. Whilst it was true that at 9 am on a wet Monday morning they were told they had to be in an hour long class with their local MP, they were all of an age where they could decide to leave school and do something else. In the light of their choice to stay and accept the discipline of their courses, surely I argued it was sensible to get something out of the hour with me – and the hours that would follow with representatives of the other main political parties. The challenge was more theirs to use my time productively for their purposes, than for me to lecture them that politics is important.

I put to them my thoughts on compulsion for 16-18 year olds from yesterday’s blog, and invited discussion. I am pleased to say there was a good flow of questions and points, on a wide range of subjects. I told them that as they apply to leading universities they are in competition with people from the leading independent schools, where there are strong traditions of taking an interest in public affairs and in grilling external speakers. I want to help in a small way to balance the competition at the university gates and urge other adults in the community to offer their encouragement to do the same.

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  1. Francis Irving
    Posted January 15, 2008 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Interesting. Leaves me wanting to know what did they decide to use the hour for?

    What questions did they ask you about politics, or what did they want to understand better, or know how to do better?

    Reply: They asked about dirty hospitals and about family break up

  2. Matt
    Posted January 15, 2008 at 3:50 pm | Permalink


    You raise an excellent point regarding the differences between state education institutions such as further education colleges and independent schools in terms of extra-curricular interests. However, does this not raise the question – surely we should be educating the teachers and educators in such places to encourage active topical thinking and involvement in politics?


  3. mikestallard
    Posted January 16, 2008 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    In our local Comprehensive, the children are so badly behaved that they had to cancel the carol service. The Grammar School (indep) goes swimming regularly in the local baths: not so the Comprehensive.
    I have volunteered to go in (I am a fully trained teacher with CRB) to do some coaching (free) and also to run (free) a school magazine.
    Sorry! Not possible, but thank you anyway.
    All rather sad.
    But good for you for making the effort in your local Comprehensive!

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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