Educating young voters

School pupils across the Borders are gearing up to cast their first votes and schools have been given guidance in how to prepare them.

For the first time ever in the UK 16 and 17 year olds will be able to vote in the Scottish independence referendum but they need to have sufficient information to be able to make an informed choice.

Guidelines given to schools by Scottish Borders Council’s director of education includes warnings about hustings, running mock elections and dealing with media enquiries.

Susan Robb, SBC’s participation officer says in her guideline papers: “Hustings should be balanced and offer space for all argument and campaigns to be heard.

“It is the responsibility of the head teacher to ensure balance and equality of any panel debate.”

Schools are actively encouraged to take advantage of televised debates. However, SBC is more cautious when it comes to giving pupils the opportunity of having a mock election to experience the voting procedure before the real thing on September 18, 2014, and schools wanting to have an election have to seek permission from the director of education first.

“Scottish Borders Council will not conduct a regional mock or parallel referendum,” say the guidelines.

“Should schools wish to undertake such an activity they should consider the risk that the results may attract unwanted media or political attention to our schools and learning settings. The outcome of a mock vote within a school may also influence the voting choice of young voters.”