What do schoolchildren think about the world today? What are their hopes and aspirations? We visited Westbourne House School near Chichester, West Sussex, and spoke to a group of 10- and 11-year-old boys and girls about their views on celebrities, current affairs and the countryside. Here’s what they sai.
Name one thing you would do if you were Prime Minister
Lizzie Improve education and make abortion over a certain age illegal. It’s just wasting human life
Charlie M Improve the discipline in State schools
Phoebe Pay less taxes
George Commit ourselves to less wars
Ottilie Make more people recycle
Flora Lower the population by restricting the amount of children you can have, maybe two to each family. If there were fewer people, there’d be less pollution
Harry Lower the prices of food and everyday things
Is education important?
Harry When you work in a shop, you still need to know a bit of maths and you generally need it in everyday life
Jasmine You need to be able to count, and in cookery, you need to be able to know how much things weigh
Charlie M Even if you want to be a sportsman, you still need good grades Lizzie If you want to do something difficult like be a doctor, you need an education, otherwise pretty much everyone would die as you’d give them too many drugs
Beatrice You need English to write reports if you’re a teacher
Has anyone heard what’s happening in Egypt?
Charlie W I’m definitely on the side of the people. What the government is doing is wrong, with all the poverty. There shouldn’t be all this violence-as you say, education is important and some of these people don’t know any better
Lizzie I don’t think the army being in charge is good. Every time the army is in charge, it doesn’t go well
Do you think we have a good electoral system?
Noah Yes, we need a Prime Minister in charge
James If you don’t have elections, you have fighting among the people who want someone different as Prime Minister
Is the Royal Family a good thing?
Lizzie It’s good to have someone to live up to, but The Queen’s speech isn’t even her own!
Noah She’s not just a figurehead. I read an article that said she had something to do every day
Charlie M The Queen helps, but she doesn’t do loads of stuff like David Cameron
Harry I like the idea of a royal family- I like to visit Windsor Castle
Ottilie I think it’s good that we have the Royal Family-if we didn’t have someone to look up to, England would be a place of fighting
George I like them. I’m proud of them. When you think of England, you think of The Queen
Jasmine It’s nice to keep traditions. It makes us England
What do you think about celebrities?
Ottilie They need their own private lives because everything they do goes into the magazines and they deserve more than that. I like hearing about them if it’s a good story, but if the magazine has just made it up, it’s not good
Lizzie I like reading about celebrities -though I wouldn’t like it if I was one. I followed the story on Big Brother when John James and Josie got married
George Justin Bieber is really famous already, but if you win the VC, you’re only in the paper briefly
Is Facebook a good thing?
Charlie M No. That’s what causes cyberbullying
Charlie W It’s good and bad. It allows you to communicate, but it opens up bad things, too
Jasmine You shouldn’t be able to fake your age. Lots of people say they’re 15
Lizzie I think it’s good. There’s a girl who left here, but she stopped going on her emails and it’s a way of keeping in touch
Flora It’s pointless. You can just use a phone
Beatrice We’re going to lose the art of writing letters-a letter makes you feel someone has cared more
George The technology is brilliant, but fewer and fewer letters are being sent
Lizzie I invited 51 people to my party so it was easier to email
Is religion a good thing?
George Religion gives you hope, that there’s something supernatural out there looking after you
Charlie W Yes. People need something to believe in. Terrorising people for what they believe in is awful, absolutely awful. People should have humanitarian rights. It would be at the top of the list if I was Prime Minister
Harry You should be allowed to believe in whatever you like
Charlie M There are good Muslims in the world-others just give them a bad name
Beatrice We shouldn’t be angry with that whole religion because it’s unfair-it’s only a few people
Who’s worried about climate change?
Flora I’m extremely worried. I think sometime soon, the water level is going to rise-this bit here might be covered in water in 1,000 years
James It could kill the Earth. Too many gases are getting released and everyone’s cutting down trees
Noah It’s not just affecting the Arctic, it’s affecting everything-animals’ habitats everywhere
Charlie M The ice might become slush and then if you fell down and couldn’t get help, you’d die
Phoebe People say ‘I’ll be dead when that happens’ so they don’t turn off lights and they use their cars to go to a shop that’s 100 yards away
Harry If we do invent a car that expels oxygen instead of carbon dioxide, you should be able to swap your car to get one
Ottilie People should walk to more places, but if you’re in your teenage years, you drive your brand-new car everywhere
Beatrice We chuck out our old phones really carelessly, but someone else in the world would really appreciate them
Lizzie Climate change just happens. The Ice Age happened when there weren’t any cars, so the whole thing is a complete myth. These car people are just making something out of it because they get more money for their new expensive cars
Flora People should shower and have fewer baths
George Yes, definitely fewer baths
Is it important to keep our countryside beautiful?
Noah Loads of wind turbines do ruin the countryside. We need to make the most of wind though, so they should be put in where there’s more wind
Charlie M You’re having a nice walk in the country, and then you see this white thing ruining the view
Beatrice Wind turbines should be in cities. There’s one in Reading and you don’t really notice it-it fits in and it works and no one minds
Charlie W Cities are growing bigger and bigger-we must keep the countryside for future generations and for animal habitat
James It’s good to see the countryside, but it’s bad to chop everything down
Phoebe People use too much paper
Charlie W They should just write on the other side
If you get married, do you think you should both work?
Charlie M My dad works at home, which is a good idea. When he worked at a massive building in London, we never saw him
Noah It’s good to see your parents a lot. Working from home a few days would be good. And you wouldn’t have to take such long journeys
Lizzie One parent really shouldn’t work-no offence to people who have nannies, but I wouldn’t want to be raised by a nanny.My mum doesn’t work, but she’s never not doing something
Phoebe I think both parents should work so they can give their children a good education
Who would you most like to meet from history?
Flora Sir Francis Drake, he was good at sailing and I like sailing
Noah Shakespeare, I love the idea of writing and creating stuff
George The Duke of Wellington because he defeated the French
Lizzie Hitler or Orson Welles. Hitler isn’t good, but he’s so interesting because he had a twitchy hand and he killed his family because they weren’t perfect. Orson Welles is probably the funniest director ever. Or Stalin and Hitler at the same time-that would be interesting
Phoebe I’d like to see if Henry VIII was really that bad
Charlie M I’d like to meet an ancestor of mine to see if there were any similarities
Jasmine Either my great-grandfather or the gymnast Nadia Comaneci
What do you think are the most important things in life?
Flora Friendship. Say you’ve had a fight, you can always go to one of your friends and they’ll cheer you up
James Giving money to the poor
Charlie M Sport and physical activity so you don’t get all slouchy
George Belief; you should stick to your opinion so that no one can suck it out of you
Lizzie Food, friendship and forgiveness
Phoebe Having nice teachers who don’t scare you or freak you out and stop you learning things
Ottilie It’s okay to be rich, but you must use it in a good way. People think if you’re rich you’ll be mean, but you can be really nice
Beatrice Food, drink and shelter
Harry What you believe in
Charlie W To be your own man, and not live by the book
Ottilie, Beatrice and Lizzie want to be barristers; Charlie W, Noah and Flora, authors; Harry wants to go into the army; George wants to be a military doctor, to sort out people like Harry- ‘I don’t mind gore’; Phoebe, television presenter or theatre actress; Charlie M, rugby player or television presenter; James, television presenter and poet; Jasmine, forensic pathologist-‘I like dissecting things’-or fashion designer
This piece is taken from the Country Life Schools Supplement Spring 2011, out today with Country Life magazine.