Labour will allow 16 year-olds to vote

Roger Titcombe's picture
According to an article in the Independent of 7 June here a Labour government will lower the voting age to 16:

"Hundreds of thousands of teenagers would be enrolled each year [onto the electoral register] as part of a Labour constitutional reform package which includes lowering the voting age from 18 to 16."

"Under the plan, schools and colleges would be legally compelled to supply details of 16 and 17 year old students to electoral registration officers."

"Labour has also raised the idea of situating ballot boxes in schools and colleges on election days, and would encourage head teachers to increase the amount of time set aside for citizenship lessons."

This raises the question of how our schools should be properly preparing KS4 students to vote in local or national elections at any age.

The DfE school Performance tables now contain important extra data. ‘Average KS4 exam entries per pupil’ is one example. This is given for pupils designated Low, Middle and High attainment on entry in Y7 based on KS2 SATs levels. Low = less than L4, Middle = L4, High = L5 and above.

The following are the exam entries per pupil data, for KS2 SATs Low, Middle and High attainers for a real secondary school that was graded 'Outstanding' by OfSTED in its last inspection and which has been much praised by Michael Gove.

GCSE subjects only: less than L4 - 3.2, L4 - 6.0, L5+ - 8.6
Including equivalents: less than L4 - 15.2, L4 - 17.6, L5+ - 19.2

Consider an imaginary pupil, Janet, who entered this real school with SATs L3, and John who entered the school with SATs L4.

John finds himself predicted to get mainly C grades at GCSE, but Janet is predicted to get Ds and Es.

Regardless of Janet's employment prospects, unlike John; she is fairly likely to become a mother and if she does, she will be much more likely than her male partner to take the main caring role for her children. [Feminists please do not shoot the messenger.]

One of the statistical patterns with the strongest and most persistent predictive power is that which links the performance of children at school with the educational attainment of their mothers. As Vygotsky said, habits of mind are contagious; presumably none more so than in passing learning habits from parent to child.

So as far as the parental role is concerned, a broad and balanced education resulting in mainly D grade GCSEs is not so significantly worse than one that results in C grades, and is a lot better than a narrower curriculum diet of vocational equivalents.

However it is catastrophically worse for the school.

But under a Labour government, both Janet and John will be registered to vote after their 16th birthdays. Leaving aside whether this would be a good thing or not, how should their school be preparing these two fictional young people to exercise their votes? Note that Labour is, quite rightly, not proposing to extend the franchise only to those with 5+A*-Cs including English and maths.

Although I greatly admire Janet Downs and usually agree with her, there is one issue on which I do not. Janet favours abolishing the national system of examinations at 16. I disagree. For me it should be the guarantor of a broad and balanced education for all pupils up to the age of 16.

Janet and John's school is forcing them to make curriculum choices at 14 that will deny Janet the curriculum she needs in order to inform her democratic voting choices. Being taught and entered for more than 15 undemanding vocational equivalents will not meet those needs. The Wolf Report was also clear that it wouldn't help her gain employment either.

However it does wonders for the school in terms of league tables and its OfSTED report.

There would indeed be a need for more school time for citizenship lessons. A sound grounding in 20th Century History would be essential for all students, alongside teaching the democratic structures of our country. I was 30 before I understood the differences between Borough/District and County Councils. Passing the 11+ helped me not at all.

This brings to mind the recent LSN debate about Henry's son's A Level history textbook here. Eulogies to Margaret Thatcher or Harold Wilson would obviously be equally unacceptable. Which would create quite a challenge for keeping political bias out of our classrooms.

Quite a lot to think about here, but Labour's plans certainly make it ever more obvious that all school students of all abilities must receive their entitlement to a full, broad and balanced curriculum up to the age of 16, with all vocationally specific courses starting in Y12. It is about time Labour's education policies caught up.
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Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 08/06/2014 - 07:43

Correction - The low attaining pupils on entry (the first one) heading appears as L4. I posted this using the 'mathematical less than' symbol, which the site does not appear to recognise - future posters be warned. It should be less than L4 (L3 or below).

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 08/06/2014 - 07:54

Roger - the thread's been amended to make it clear the first figures are "less than". Typing in the "less than" symbol caused the data to disappear so I've given the info using English rather than mathematical language.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 08/06/2014 - 08:20

Thanks Janet - much appreciated.

FJM's picture
Sun, 08/06/2014 - 10:16

Ballot boxes in schools. That would be a great idea in Tower Hamlets and Birmingham.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 08/06/2014 - 10:43

FJM - I don't want to sidetrack the debate, but you raise an important point. You can't have democracy if powerful local religious leaders are telling their young flock which way to vote, with the punishment of eternal damnation if the instructions are ignored. Clearly this is yet another reason for keeping such priestly influence out of schools. I accept that this never been part of the culture of English Christian church schools but it has in Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland.

Chris Manners's picture
Sun, 08/06/2014 - 19:03

What's Tower Hamlets got to do with Birmingham?

What problems do we share with them?

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 08/06/2014 - 19:35

Chris - In parts of Birmingham and in Tower Hamlets in London there have been allegations made of electoral malpractice related to community faith leaders. I don't think anything has been proven, but it obviously needs investigating.

FJM's picture
Sun, 08/06/2014 - 20:10

Let us be frank, the connection between the two is one of Muslim politicians and school governors. We should not call them 'community faith leaders', partly because it is an attempt to disguise the precise community, and also because many Muslims are far from happy with what is alleged to have been going on in TH and Birmingham. LSN contributors are seldom so coy when it comes to bashing Catholic schools, such as the London Oratory, but they come over all sensitive when it comes to Islam.

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 09/06/2014 - 08:14

FJM - I think you might have missed LSN posts which criticised Islamic influences in English schools. Here's one.

When the Trojan Horse story broke, you posted a comment which appeared to abandon "innocent until proved guilty" in favour of "guilty until proven innocent". You weren't alone, of course, politicians, including Gove, and the media did the same.

I have all along advised restraint until investigations were completed - I said so on the thread you began.

And I said this not just to you but to the Islamic "scholar" who dumped one of his "cut-and-pasted" tirades in comments on this site.

Re London Oratory - the schools was censured by the Schools Adjudicator for going beyond what was allowed it the Schools Admission Code. I'm sure you're not suggesting I don't write about it just because it's a Catholic school.

Andy V's picture
Mon, 09/06/2014 - 12:11

I can see no comparison between a school accused of weighting its admissions one way or another and the potential of 'radicalised' religious zealots.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 08/06/2014 - 20:49

FJM - You are right. Too many lefties make excuses for the unacceptable when it comes with a religious ethnic minority label. I am an unapologetic socialist and this does not apply to me. I am far from alone. Yasmin Alibhai Brown is a 'black' Muslim who writes for the Independent. Your criticism does not apply to her either and she gets a lot of stick for it. I admire her greatly.

However this does not mean that RC schools should be free from criticism. This article by Catherine Bennett contains examples that the Roman Catholic church should be ashamed of. I hope you agree.

FJM's picture
Sun, 08/06/2014 - 21:12

Although I am not a great fan of YAB, I have read some of her articles in 'Independent Voices'; and respect her for standing up to the worst aspects of Islamic fundamentalism. I know that you, too, are consistent in this respect. There are others on the left with similar principles, but also the likes of Owen Jones, who turn a blind eye to the worst excesses of minority groups.
Rather than get into another fruitless exchange of views about faith schools, at least CV and other church schools do not hide their mission and the churches are not trying to infiltrate and take over non-church schools. Interestingly, two Labour MPs in Birmingham have been talking about the problem there for a few weeks. On the one hand, Khalid Mamood (Muslim) has been attacking the infiltration very trenchantly, whereas Liam Byrne has been crying Islamophobia, community relations damaged, blah, blah, blah. Local Muslims have more to fear from the fanatics than anyone else. We shall see what the report has to say tomorrow.

Roger Titcombe's picture
Sun, 08/06/2014 - 21:20

FJM - You are right. But Liam Byrne has also been criticised by LSN contributors including strong Labour supporters here.

Andy V's picture
Mon, 09/06/2014 - 12:09

Neither does the traditional 'faith' sector stand accused of turning of radicalised believers who are likely to become involved in acts of aggression in this country or elsewhere.

These traditional 'faith' schools do what they say on the tin and have a broad and balanced curriculum. For Ms Bennett to smear the stated mission of schools such as CV by tarring them with the same brush as 'radicalised Islam' is a slur to far and demonstrates her ignorance and not a little of what I suspect is blindly aggressive atheism.

FJM's picture
Mon, 09/06/2014 - 16:08


Andy V's picture
Mon, 09/06/2014 - 12:02

Yet more mindless, ill-considered, ill-conceived nonsense from politicians. I don't much care what guise they come in they are senseless in their striving to obtain votes from any quarter. Blair stole the Conservative clothes to win in 1997 and now Milliband is stealing from the LibDem wardrobe and teenie voters.

We saw rampant immigration under Blair/Brown in their drive to change the voting scales in their favour and Milliband thinks the 16-17 bracket will fall over themselves to say thank you by voting for his party.

This an example of abjectly arrogant political nonsense. A conspiracy theorist might suggest that this is Labour's way of countering the potential loss of all their seats in an independent Scotland.

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