Teacher Talk

'The J8 project made us feel as though we had been involved in something historic'
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The Independent Online

How can young people contribute to the debate on the complex issues tackled by the G8?

These young people are not yet politicised, so don't face the same burdens as politicians when it comes to considering issues such as poverty and the environment. They don't worry about whether the public will swallow what they say, thus they can offer clear and simple thinking on the problems. They have a "can do" mentality, and this is what informed their communiqué to the G8 leaders.

What have the students gained from the project?

J8 (www.j8changetheworld.com) gave them the opportunity to break bread with people from the other G8 countries. It has been a forum for the exchanging of ideas, where they've found ideological similarities with foreign pupils despite cultural differences. The pupils will be able to take what they've learnt back to their communities and into their lives. It has been a time of personal and collective growth.

How do they feel about the G8 leaders' approach to their responsibilities?

Everyone here is worried about the grave risks associated with climate change when they see the graphs and hear the facts. We're all upset about poverty and sustainability, but there's no animosity towards the leaders at the workshops, rather, people are upbeat and believe that the G8 can and will do something special. We feel as though we're involved in something historic.

Will your students see such issues on the curriculum in the future?

Definitely. Our head teacher, Mairead Gorman, has encouraged me and worked with me to introduce these themes into education. The Department for Education and Skills also sent out a teaching pack to schools as part of the J8 contest. Questions of trade, global health and the environment are questions of citizenship, and we've come up with new initiatives to give students a platform from which to think about these things. The issues fit into teaching on history, citizenship, PSHE, science and other areas. It is important that this subject matter makes it into the curriculum all over the country and beyond.

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