Inspiring political engagement in the classroom

Dominic TraynorBlog, Education, English

According to former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle, if we want our young people to engage in politics, we must start them young – really young.

Alongside A Tale Unfolds and Book Creator, Peter Kilfoyle has helped to develop Pupil Prime Minister – a 10 lesson teaching resource designed to encourage young people to become politically active. The project also invites pupils to showcase their ideas at the first ever KS2 literacy and filmmaking festival, LitFilmFest.

Pupil Prime Minister

LitFilmFest

Here, Peter explains his motivation for making a personal stand:

Peter Kilfoyle“In the current political climate, we are told that, more than ever, we need to stand up and be counted. On the other hand, Russell Brand warns young people not to vote at all.

“We’re told that social media is to blame for misleading voters, putting off non-voters and segregating us from the very people we need to engage with. Politics is changing in a big way and, during this period of intense change, there is a lot to be confused about, even for a seasoned campaigner like me. I can only imagine how all this looks to a young person.

Russell Brand with a megaphone

Source: indpendent.co.uk (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)


“Here in the UK, there are lots of statistics being thrown around about the number of millennials who turned up to vote in the last general election and EU referendum. However, the only thing that is clear to me is that too many of our young people still don’t vote.

“The problems facing young people are threefold. Firstly, they are unaware of the importance of policy to their own lives. Yet the government’s decisions on the budget deficit, job creation, welfare spending, house prices, tuition fees and the environment will impact on the young more than anyone else. It’s a tragedy that the future generation are often left feeling disempowered.




“Secondly, young people’s issues are often considered ‘soft news’ by the media. Why spend time, money and effort on addressing key concerns for young people when they aren’t the biggest things on the political agenda?

“Thirdly, politicians understand that kids don’t vote and often ignore them. So when confronted with a political system that appears complicated or unwelcoming, we cannot blame millennials for being apathetic. Young voters need to feel included in the debate with politicians, who they will otherwise perceive to be living in a Westminster bubble. Token attempts to engage them on social media aren’t cutting it.

A fight for attention

“Turning young people on to politics just doesn’t happen overnight. As in all walks of life, children need adults to be their advocates and role models. Many organisations go online to engage and inspire young voters but the online world is a battleground, a constant fight for attention. There is only one place where we are guaranteed to engage with people: school.

A student and teacher looking at an iPad with Book Creator

“If we leave it until secondary school to flip the politics switch then we’re fighting an uphill battle. We have to start them young, in primary school. I recently took part in filming a primary school politics initiative called Pupil Prime Minister, a 10-hour persuasive writing resource that helps pupils to form their own political parties, write and film their own party political broadcasts and manifestos discussing a range of different issues.

“Designed to combine English, citizenship & digital skills, I was surprised to see how flexible the primary curriculum could be. Compared to secondary, there is much more scope to explore cross-curricular ideas in a way that makes primary schools an ideal place to plant the political seed.

“Digital media has changed our world in so many ways. Rather than attempt to reverse the tide, we must harness its power not only to improve education but also to encourage our young people to believe that change is possible and that their voice matters. If not, the Westminster bubble will continue and our disenfranchised youth will only seek out more radical ways to make their voices heard outside of the democratic process.”


Pupil Prime Minister gives all KS2 pupils the opportunity to plan, write and film a party political broadcast on the issues that really matter to them. As well as this, they can use Book Creator to design and write their very own interactive manifesto.

LitFilmFest

Book Creator is supporting this year’s LitFilmFest – a competition for schools where pupils can see their work on the biggest cinema screen in the UK!

Interested in showcasing your students’ writing and filmmaking efforts at the BFI IMAX? Find out more at litfilmfest.com.

Dominic Traynor is the founder of A Tale Unfolds, a social enterprise which brings traditional and digital literacy together. Their resources have been used in over 2,500 primary schools and they have trained over 2,000 primary teachers in the last year alone.

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