One of the wonderful things about managing Citizenship in a school is the way people look so warily at you when you go into their office with a piece of paper and your brightest, shiniest smile. I got this look about a month ago when I went into the diary manager's office to ask about running a mock election. I got it again from my line manager, who thinks I'm mad. I got it from my department when I went in last week with about six kids in tow carrying boxes, and then again last night when I was sitting on the office floor making sellotaping pens on string to my beautifully wrapped ballot boxes.
But it's totally worth it!
Our 6th formers have been campaigning in assemblies all of last week as Labour, Lib Dem and Tories. Today, every single kid got brought down to the hall and handed a ballot paper. I had to get them through the polling station at a rate of 30 kids every 5 minutes. (I thought this actually impossible, hence the billion ballot boxes.) They stood in a queue while I shouted at them to make a CROSS on the ballot paper. My favourite year 10 helpers told them this again as they handed out ballots. They read the ballot, which also contained instructions about crossing ballots, and a little diagram. 214 out of 1800 still managed to cock this up.
12 cocked it up by writing BNP on the ballot. This is hugely depressing.
One cocked it up by writing Nazi Party on the ballot. A very scared looking year 9 appeared at my office at lunch time.
"Um, Miss... About the election..."
"What about it?"
there's an exceptionally long pause.
"Come on, I'm trying to write reports here in the twelve minutes I've salvaged from this election. What is it!!"
As so often happens, it all comes out in a rush. I don't think this child paused for breath once.
"Miss, someone stole my ballot and wrote something on it, and I don't want to get into trouble, I promise it wasn't me, I'll tell you who it was, it was Zach, he wrote Nazi Party on it, and I know the Nazis were awful, and I don't want to vote for them, and I know they weren't even in this election because you wouldn't have it, but Anti Semitism's a crime aint it, and I don't want to be guilty of that, even though I didn't do it, am I going to be in trouble?"
"You won't be in trouble, I know you, and I know you're not a Nazi don't I?"
"Yes, but I was scared I'd be in trouble, and Mr Hockey would make a big deal out of it, because he hates discrimination, well I know you do too Miss, well everyone does I mean, because it's really bad isn't it? And I"
"George. I think it's good that you realise how serious discrimination is, and it's good that you want to disassociate yourself from it. That shows you've got a good moral character, doesn't it? But you can stop worrying about being in trouble. Think about it for just one minute. Did you write your name on the ballot?"
"No, you said we could only make a cross, or we'd spoil it, and that it was anonymous. Do you promise I won't get in trouble? I'm really not a Nazi Miss, I promise I'm not, I hate Hitler"
"Yes. That's right. I'm glad you were listening. But George, even if I wanted to get someone into trouble over this, how would I know who it was?"
"Oh... I see... Right..."
I never did finish the reports.
I am still procrastinating from that task now.
I'm clearly going to find myself doing it tomorrow, after the end of the last day before Easter, when I should be in the pub.
Oh - and for those election geeks who know that every poll matters - this South London hotspot would have a Labour Government under FPTP, and a hung parliament, led weakly by the Lib Dems, unless there was some unholy Lab/Con coalition, if we used a PR system.
After the election I counted the votes with the aforementioned favourite year 10 girls, who had just last week covered FPTP and PR in our GCSE lesson (long term planning schmanning! Last minute ideas work out just fine!). After counting the votes, writing it all down, and working out who had won they were all still baffled. We did it again, and they got it.
Miss Jones 1, Stupid Electoral Systems 0.