Page last updated at 12:23 GMT, Thursday, 26 March 2009

School pupils grill political leaders

Gordon Brown meets a group of schoolchildren from across the UK

Facing difficult questions is a regular part of a politician's life, although their interviewers are not usually still at school.

But, as part of School Report News Day, groups of schoolchildren were given the chance to fire questions at the UK's top political leaders.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown found himself facing a grilling by pupils from each of the UK's capital cities.

The queries ranged from violence in Northern Ireland to global warming and also included questions on the "credit crunch" and Great Britain having one football team at the 2012 Olympics.

Mr Brown said the best thing, and also the worst thing, about being prime minister was that you had "a new challenge every day, you wake up in the morning and something new has happened".

Some of these challenges could be "really, really difficult" he added.

Mr Brown also said he would like to see a Great Britain football team at the 2012 Olympics, made up of all nations, and that he would like Manchester United's manager Sir Alex Ferguson to be in charge of the team.

Favourite dish

He confessed to a love of different foods from around the world, but cited steak as his favourite dish.

And when asked what job he would like to do if he were not prime minister, Mr Brown said he would like to work for charities that deal with people both in the UK and around the world.

His questions were delivered by pupils from Park High School in London, who were joined by others from St Cecelia's College in Londonderry and Glengormley High School in Belfast.

Also at the interview were children from Howell's School in Cardiff and from Lasswade School in Edinburgh.

Leader of the Conservatives David Cameron was interviewed by students from Burford School, Oxfordshire.

Cameron meets School Reporters

He answered queries on the need for Heathrow to have a third runway, saying the airport should be made "better, not bigger" and that more emphasis should be placed on using train travel, rather than using aeroplanes.

He also confessed that he would never appear on Strictly Come Dancing because he could not dance, Big Brother because it would end his political career, and I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here on "taste grounds".

And Mr Cameron revealed he had once needed to explain to former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher that her daughter Carol was about to win a previous series of I'm A Celebrity, as she was not following the reality show and was unaware how well her daughter was doing.

Exercise boost

Nick Clegg: 'save school fields'

The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, met students from Harrogate Grammar School in North Yorkshire.

The politician, who speaks five languages, was asked how important he thought it was to learn languages at school, in light of the fact that children no longer have to learn a second language.

"I think languages are really important," he said, adding that they helped people to understand different cultures.

He was also asked plenty of questions about education and increasing sports participation across the country.

"I think the most important thing to do is to save school playing grounds," he said. "Physical exercise is as important, in my view, to a well-rounded education as is what you do in the classroom."

When asked what he would do if he had £1m, Mr Clegg said he would spend it on buying back playing fields that had been sold off.

Salmond meets School Reporters

Elsewhere, students in Scotland from Woodmill High in Dunfermline and Gleniffer High School, Paisley, spoke to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond.

He revealed that he was teased at school because he was a boy soprano who sang in choirs.

He also disagreed with Mr Brown over entering a Great Britain football team into the next Olympics, saying it was not worth jeopardising Scotland's place as an international side just for a one-off occasion.

Welsh leaders meets School Reporters

Students from three schools in Wales - Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr, Ysgol Bryn Tawe, and Pontypridd High School - conducted a press conference-style briefing with several politicians.

These were Welsh Assembly members Alun Davies, Helen Mary Jones, Eleanor Burnham and Alun Cairns, and the meeting was chaired by Assembly Speaker Dafydd Elis Thomas. Politicians disagreed about the use of mobile phones in the classroom and answered questions on what more could be done to keep Wales' beaches clean.

Northern Ireland's leaders meets School Reporters

In Northern Ireland, School Reporters from Ashfield Boys' High School in Belfast spent the morning interviewing the leaders in Northern Ireland - First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Peter Robinson told pupils his best friend at school being killed by the IRA propelled him into politics.

Martin McGuinness said to School Reporters that he now regards Ian Paisley as a friend.



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