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Pupil Power: a good pressure group example

Mike McCartney

9th July 2021

And it's one that I think is both quite inspirational, and one that readers will have a personal interest in the topic

I was listening to a debate on Radio 4 earlier this week about the future of England's school examination system.

This is the blurb from the Beeb's website:

"Is the current exam system fit for purpose?

Should we change the current system of examinations for our 16 and 18 year olds? During the past two years pupils across the UK have missed out on official exams like GCSEs, A Levels and Highers. So are official exams no longer needed?

The current system was set up as a conduit for the now, 50 percent of students who go to university. But what about those who don't go on to higher education, are they being catered for? Is there a better way to assess what young people have learnt whilst at school that will help them get what they want out of life in the future? Amol Rajan and guests discuss."

It really is worth a listen. This is the link: BBC Sounds - Rethink, Rethink Education, Is the current exam system fit for purpose?

In the programme we got to hear from Aliyah Irabor-York, Student & Founder, of Pupil Power.

So PupilPower (check the link to find out more) are a fascinating example of a pressure group. I think this is because I have skin in the game, as it were. The school exam system really needs looking at.

As a reminder, pressure groups can be classified in various ways.

It is best to describe methods in relation to the different types of group:

  • Insider groups work largely within government. They seek to have places on policy committees and units, they provide regular written reports, often showing research findings (environment and business groups are examples), give evidence to parliamentary committees and try to arrange meetings directly with ministers and civil servants. They may also become directly involved in the drafting of legislation (e.g. the national Consumer Council or the Law Commission).
  • Outsider groups – usually promotional groups – largely seek to mobilise public opinion. They do this to place their issues on the public and political agenda. They also try to persuade policy makers that many people support the issue and that the government may gain votes by supporting the group (note Help the Aged with its huge section of supporters) Typically they organise media campaigns (Marcus Rashford and school meals), organise public demonstrations (Extinction Rebellion) and may use stunts which gain publicity (Stop HS2) - the latter can also be categorised as direct action.
  • Sectional groups usually seek insider status. They may also take direct action – notably trade unions who organise strikes and other industrial action. Important groups in society such as the police or doctors and nurses may threaten non-compliance with new policies.
  • Some groups, often promotional, may operate outside the law. Examples are the Animal Liberation Front or Greenpeace. They hope to gain publicity in this way.

Really good case study. Find out more about the group via the YouTube link below. Maybe, I hope, even consider getting involved?

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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