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Last Updated: Saturday, 15 March 2008, 18:51 GMT
Party leaders given a grilling
Gordon Brown being interviewed. Pic: Jeff Overs/BBC
Gordon Brown said his interviewers were "very good". Pic: Jeff Overs/BBC

Political leaders are used to tough questioning from opposition parties and the press - but now they have been grilled by pupils aged 11 to 14.

As part of the BBC's School Report News Day, students from nine schools have been holding the UK's top politicians to account.

PM Gordon Brown, Conservative leader David Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg have all been put through their paces by the would-be journalists.

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Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond and the presiding officer of the National Assembly of Wales, Dafydd Elis-Thomas, have also been quizzed.

Gordon Brown was interviewed at Downing Street by what he called "very, very good" reporters from four different schools, on a range of weighty and serious subjects including education, child poverty and the environment.

One School Reporter, Francesca from St Andrew's School in Bedfordshire, found the prime minister surprisingly agreeable.

"I was really pleased, because I thought he might be a bit horrible, but he was actually very nice," she said.

'Not going to answer'

Conservative leader David Cameron also answered questions on a range of heavyweight topics including health, gang violence, and immigration.

David Cameron puts his head in his hands
David Cameron was stumped on a couple of questions
He risked unpopularity by firmly telling youngsters from George Green's School in east London that student university fees were here to stay.

But he was made visibly uncomfortable when the students focused on what he had been like at their age - with questions about kisses, being naughty and teddy bear names.

"I think it would be a bit unfair if I said on live television," he said when asked who was the first person he kissed.

"She's now happily married so I don't want to interfere in her life. So I'm afraid I'm not going to answer the question."

Ashdown picked for team

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was interviewed in his office at the Houses of Parliament by pupils from Banbury School in Oxfordshire.

Nick Clegg laughs at a question
Nick Clegg said his interviewers had been "devastatingly effective"
He was asked questions on weighty subjects including his recent management of his party over Europe, the environment, and citizenship - saying "no" to Gordon Brown's recent suggestion of an allegiance oath.

But he appeared to think longest and hardest when asked who would be his star player, if he had to create a football team out of politicians - finally plumping for one of his predecessors, Paddy Ashdown.

"In defence," he said.

"He was one of the few politicians who knew how to kill someone with his bare hands, so that would probably be quite a good place to put him."

What about Gordon Brown?

"Oh no, he'd be on the reserve benches if he's lucky."

And David Cameron?

"He wouldn't be in the team."

First minister 'best job'

Ian Paisley was questioned by students from the Belfast Boys' Model School.

I think I would be far better keeping off such luxury food, and just eat my porridge
Ian Paisley on eating a Creme Egg

The Northern Ireland first minister, who recently announced that he would step down in May, was asked some extremely serious questions, such as how he saw the future of Northern Ireland, and how the DUP and Sinn Fein managed to work together.

But he was also asked: "As Easter approaches, can you tell us how do you eat your Creme Egg?"

The answer?

"I think I would be far better keeping off such luxury food, and just eat my porridge," he said.

Mr Salmond was interviewed by students at the Bridge of Don Academy, Aberdeen.

He was asked all about his job as first minister - what it involved, how it felt when he was elected, and whether he enjoyed it.

He said he had been "really, really pleased" when he achieved the position.

"I think if you're in politics you should try to run things, to be in government - and if you've got to be in government, by far the best job is to be first minister. That's the best job," he said.

The full interview can be heard on the Bridge of Don Academy website.

School Reporters from The Doon Academy visited the Scottish parliament to interview Adam Ingram, Minister for Children and Early Years in the Scottish government. The school's website contains both a video and audio report of the interview.

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'Where is our school?'

Students from Ysgol Y Gader in north-west Wales interviewed Lord Elis-Thomas.

Among topics they covered were the lack of sporting opportunities for young people in the area - and who was the best famous person he had met.

On sport, he said he did not think there were enough facilities right now, but that plans were in place to expand facilities in places like Bangor and Wrexham.

On famous people, he said he had met Sir Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta Jones and the Queen - and hoped to meet singer Duffy quite soon.

The 11- to 12-year-olds didn't pull any punches
Guernsey teacher Adrian Prowse
He was also asked how he kept Assembly Members under control. He said he had a secret weapon of a "big red button" which could turn their microphones off if things got out of control - but he had not yet had to use it.

Elsewhere, School Report was mentioned in Jersey's parliament.

And students at a school in Guernsey tackled the issue of funding delays for a new school building with the island's Education Minister Martin Ozanne.

A team of Year 7 students asked the minister on the radio: "Where is our new school?"

"They were very brave," says teacher Adrian Prowse.

"The 11 to 12-year-olds didn't pull any punches."



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