Schools Research Project
New CISRUL project in schools
CISRUL's project on local schools began with our "Citizenship Education" forum in March 2013. Making "responsible citizens" is a core objective of the Curriculum for Excellence, which is being rolled out in schools across Scotland. Speakers at the forum noted, however, that the Curriculum for Excellence gives little emphasis to the political awareness of pupils, and also that teachers across Scotland are notoriously wary of "political" agendas in the classroom. The apolitical ethos of Scottish schooling may accentuate what education researchers have found across the world: pupils complain of feeling disenfranchised because they are unable to vote until they are 18.
How will all this change with 16- and 17-year old pupils voting in the Referendum? We are looking at whether it leads pupils to pay more attention to politics and, if so, how long it lasts and what the consequences are. They have begun with focus groups and interviews in a sample of local schools, starting with general questions such as "Beyond your family, who makes rules for you to follow, and do you think it is right that they make the rules?" and leading on to questions like "For those of you who will be eligible to vote in the Referendum, how confident do you feel about making the right decision?"
The project is starting with the Aberdeenshire Schools Referendum in September 2013. Schools have been directed by Scottish ministers to engage pupils with the Referendum. The Shire has held "mock" elections in schools in previous years, run by its Elections team as if they were normal elections. The difference this time is that many pupils will actually vote in the Referendum next year. Drs. Shanks, Stack and Kiwan will be observing hustings in schools, as well as running an online survey after the vote to gauge pupils' experience of the Schools Referendum.