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OPENING UP THE RED BOX

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Why do we need public services? How much should we spend on them?...
Why do we need public services? How much should we spend on them?

How do we pay for them? These are among the citizenship issues for

young people addressed in a new schools initiative, including an

interactive website, launched by treasury chief secretary Paul

Boateng.

'The Red Box' teaching pack and website will help pupils to

understand the role of public services and the priorities and choices

involved, with the opportunity to set their own budgets and balance

demands on public spending in an imaginative exercise in community

services provision.

It will stimulate interest and discussion of what young people

believe is important in their own communities while delivering

components of the citizenship and personal and social education

curriculum, and developing literacy and numeracy skills in a real

life context.

Welcoming the initiative, Mr Boateng said:

'This is an excellent informative and entertaining package which will

help young people understand the choices that we are required to make

in order to provide schools, hospitals, roads and other public

services.

'Understanding crucial public service issues and the decisions that

have to be taken are central to democracy and citizenship.

'As adults, we all have to consider these questions and their impact

on the quality of life for our families and communities. 'The Red

Box' initiative will help young people prepare in the classroom to

deal with the issues when they leave it.

'It is essential that we help our children to become informed,

thoughtful and responsible members of society, aware of their duties

as well as their rights. That is why citizenship is now being taught

as part of the national curriculum. This pack is intended to give

teachers another resource to help them teach it effectively.'

Named after the chancellor's famous Budget Box, 'The Red Box'

initiative will help school pupils aged between 7 and 16 years to

understand the importance of public services and the funding of

public spending.

It comprises: an interactive website; a budget box pack containing: a

48-page pack for teachers; worksheets for classroom use; case studies

and background information; classroom posters; and 'Jack's Guide To

Life', a video that looks at public services in a series of scenarios

involving 15-year old Jack and his family.

The pack has been designed for educational use throughout the UK,

primarily for teaching citizenship-related subjects, but it also

supports the teaching of literacy and numeracy and information and

communication technology.

'The Red Box' was developed jointly by the Treasury, Inland Revenue

and Customs & Excise, working with educational consultants. During

its development, Paul Boateng hosted a workshop at No. 11 Downing

Street where a class of primary school children from a north London

school tested the materials and suggested their own ideas to make

sure that 'The Red Box' reflects their classroom needs.

Inland Revenue chairman Nick Montagu said:

'People pay taxes as their contribution to the UK's needs. Taxpaying

is a vital element in citizenship. So I am delighted that we are

providing this pack for schools: I hope it will stimulate young

people to think about the relationship between taxes and providing

the public goods that a civilised society requires.'

Customs and Excise chairman Richard Broadbent said :

'The schoolchildren of today are the citizens of tomorrow, and

Customs and Excise are pleased to be part of this valuable initiative

to improve understanding of vital citizenship issues. 'The Red Box'

is an excellent opportunity for agencies at the forefront of the

public sector to give pupils an insight into the workings of the

sector in an informative, interactive and fun way.'

NOTES

1. 'The Red Box' was developed in conjunction with citizenship

experts and teachers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern

Ireland. Citizenship and Personal and Social Education (PSE) is

taught throughout the UK, in varying forms; the pack has been

designed to be applicable to all the national curricula and includes

an at-a-glance reference for teachers showing the areas of the

relevant curriculum it supports. In addition to citizenship and

related subjects the pack can be used in teaching numeracy, literacy

and information and communication technology and the teachers' notes

provide guidance on this.

2. The website www.redbox.gov.ukoffers users the opportunity to run

'The Square', an animated series of mostly public buildings and

services that cost a minimum amount to maintain. Players aim to raise

the money for it by collecting information on revenue and budget

issues and answering questions as they tour The Square. Each correct

answer raises funds for these public services, while additional money

can be made by completing interactive games. Users can then see the

effect their decisions have on public services in, e.g. health,

education, the arts.

3. The Treasury, the Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise were assisted

in the development of the initiative by Educational Communications

(Edcoms), a leading educational consultancy which develops and

manages sponsored educational programmes for commercial, government

and charitable organizations. Following pilot trials, almost half UK

secondary schools - around 3000 - have placed orders for 'The Red

Box' already.

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