Education bosses in Fife are insisting pupils’ safety will not be compromised at schools being used as polling stations for Thursday’s General Election.
Previously, schools used as polling stations were closed to pupils on the day of the election, but this time the schools will remain open.
Teachers have reported that pupils, being naturally inquisitive, were asking more questions around the question of democracy and that is surely a good thing.Councillor Bryan Poole
That’s prompted a number of parents to raise concerns, but Councillor Bryan Poole promised the schools’ dual role – as a polling station and place of education – would be properly managed, and could even have the positive effect of sparking children’s interest in voting and democracy.
Cllr Poole said each school had individual arrangements, tailored to the lay out of the particular building, to ensure voters and children were kept separate.
He added: “From the outset the prime consideration was ‘Can we keep our children safe if we keep schools open on polling day?’ – and the answer was yes,
“We have already trialled this in a number of primary schools at recent by-elections and the feedback from the schools has been positive.
“Some issues were raised which we have ironed out. The recent by-elections in Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes saw eight primary schools play a dual role on polling day. This meant 1800 pupils did not miss out on their education that day.
“Schools which have taken part have reported that for pupils the experience has been very positive. Teachers have reported that pupils, being naturally inquisitive, were asking more questions around the question of democracy and that is surely a good thing.”
Historically, a large number of Fife’s schools were closed during elections as they are used for polling stations.
Last year – due to a number of by-elections, the European election and the Independence Referendum – some schools were closed several times as the buildings were used as polling stations.
This disrupted the children’s education and was an inconvenience for working families.
Hazel Freeland, headteacher at Newcastle Primary School in Glenrothes, said: “We’re delighted that our school will be open as normal, as it was during the recent by-election. It’s great news for pupils and parents – pupils won’t miss any classes and parents won’t have to worry about finding alternative childcare for the day. It also means that any pupils entitled to a free school meal will still get their lunch.
”We have spoken to parent representatives and staff and to our pupils to get their feedback on the school staying open during polling day and the majority of comments have been very positive.
“This has given our children an insight into how democracy works in our country and has really sparked their interest.
“At the last by-election, when the school was open as usual, extra council staff were on hand to help direct voters and to make sure there were no issues. It all went very smoothly.”