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Teachers: Citizenship: Electoral Systems

Last Updated: Monday April 11 2005 12:18 GMT

What's the most important issue?

Citizenship 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
Electoral systems and voting


If young people determined the UK's political agenda, what would have been the top issues at the general election?

Newsround ran a special vote as part of the Y Vote mock elections, and now you can see the results.

Learning aims

  • Some possible key issues
  • How to structure an argument
  • Meaning of active citizenship

1. Local to Global:

  • Ask the group if there is anything about school life that they think needs changing (this should wake them up).
  • What about their immediate local area, is there anything about the way that land is used or services and businesses organised that they would like to see changed?
  • Widen the net to include a county, region, town, city, nation, continent and finally the planet.
  • Young people are often accused of being apathetic about politics, why do they think this is?
  • How many would not vote in a general election?
  • What reasons do they give?
  • If party politics is not important then what issues are?
2. Vote on issues:


Print off and hand out our issues worksheet. Get the group to vote on their top issues, if there's time they could rank the issues from most to least important.

Main activity

Having picked out the issue they think is most important, they need to find a way of expressing how they feel about it and why.

This could be a written report, or a poster. It could take the form of a script for a news report or if time allows even a short film.

Which ever platform they choose the important thing to develop is some structure to their arguments. A good way to start with this is to pull out five points that support their choice, but also three obvious weaknesses in their arguments.

Identifying and countering the holes in their arguments works well if the students are in pairs. Here's an example:

    I believe that dealing with global warming should be the key issue at this election.

    Reasons why:

  • 1. If the ice cap melts we will all drown.
  • 2. Lots of animals will be killed, and that's not fair.
  • 3. We must do something now before it's too late.
  • 4. This problem effects everyone in the world
  • 5. Adults are spoiling the planet before young people have a chance to enjoy it.

    Arguments against:

  • 1. Some scientists say global warming is not caused by man.
  • 2. Protecting jobs is more important than looking after the environment.
  • 3. It probably won't be a big problem in this country.

    My response to arguments against:

  • 1. We can protect the environment without losing jobs... etc

Get some of the group to present their work. Can they persuade people to adopt a new top issue?

Teachers' Background
  • At the last general election there were 659 seats, this has now dropped to 646 due to reorganisation of boundaries in Scotland. That means the Labour party would need 324 votes to get a Majority.

  • At the last election the results were:

    Labour 413
    Conservative 166
    Lib Dem 52
    SNP 5
    Plaid Cymru 4
    UUP 6
    DUP 5
    SDLP 3
    Sinn Fein 4
    Other 1

  • Overall, many commentators felt that the 2001 election result was predictable and the campaign was dull. This was reflected in the very low turnout - just 59.4% of people bothered to vote, the lowest percentage since everyone had the right to vote.
  • The average turnout at the May 1997 General Election was 71.2%. There was, however, a great deal of variation in the turnout between constituencies: as high as 86.1% in Mid Ulster, it sunk to just 51.6% in Liverpool Riverside.

Election 2005

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