BBC School Reporters grill high-powered politicians

Boris Johnson is tackled on youth crime, sports facilities... and his ambitions

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The rise of knife crime, the lack of after-school activities, the cost of higher education… BBC News School Reporters have been tackling high-profile UK politicians over a range of pressing issues that directly impact on their lives.

The usually loquacious Boris Johnson - Mayor of London - was momentarily stumped as one student repeatedly demanded an answer to the question: Do you want to be Prime Minister?

Mr Johnson, speaking to students from Norwood School in south London, eventually conceded that "if people genuinely wanted it, of course I'd want to do it."

The mayor promised that he was committed to opening more youth clubs and improving sporting facilities in an effort to build on the legacy of the London Olympics.

In turn, he said, that would help efforts to crack down on knife crime.

"One stabbing is too many but what's happened in the last four or five years since I've been mayor is that the number of kids dying in knife crime has been coming down," he said.

"It's about making sure that kids have other things to do."

The PM and Lord Coe talk about school sports funding and inspiring young people

Provision of sport within schools came under the spotlight recently when the government announced plans for £150m of funding for primary schools.

On the day of the announcement, Ramon from Whitgift School in Croydon asked Prime Minister David Cameron if he could "honestly and truthfully" say that the scheme would ensure a long-lasting legacy.

"I really think it will," the prime minister said. "This money can't be spent on anything else other than Politicians tackled over big issuessport and it's enough to provide good sports teachers in all our schools."

With the planned lowering of the voting age to 16, young people in Scotland are more influential than ever and students from Duncanrig Secondary in Glasgow heard the arguments for and against an independent Scotland.

Students grill politicians on Scottish independence

First Minister Alex Salmond announced on Thursday - the day of the School Report News Day - that a referendum allowing Scots to vote on independence would take place on 18 September 2014.

"Independence is a natural state of nations - Scotland is unusual in not being independent," Salmond told the students.

"And the reason is you make your own decisions, control your own resources, develop your own economy and make choices."

Calling the shots

Former chancellor Alistair Darling, who believes the country should remain within the UK, argued that Scotland already has "the best of both worlds" and expressed his fears that an independent Scotland would lose vital influence within the European Union.

"It's the big countries that call the shots in Europe," he said.

Defence secretary Philip Hammond has even more far-reaching concerns. He told Surrey's Fullbrook School that Iran and North Korea's nuclear arms race was a genuine threat to world peace.

"Both states are attempting to test and acquire nuclear weapons and long-range missiles. They are major destabilising forces in the world and we need to deal with them," he said.

"In both cases, the peoples of those countries are suffering while their regimes are directing resources on a mad arms race that they can never win against the United States.

"North Korea and Iran are the two major threats to global stability."

Twigg concern at career advice changes

Education, inevitably, is a hot topic for School Reporters. Politicians tackled over big issues

Stephen Twigg, Labour's shadow education secretary, told students from Guru Nanak Sikh Academy in Hayes that if he was in power, he would immediately halt the plans to separate A Levels and A/S Levels into separate qualifications.

He also expressed his concern that the recent rise in the cap on tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000 would put off young people from lower income families going into higher education.

"I think the state, the taxpayer, should also make a contribution, because there is a benefit to all of us of young people getting a higher education," he said.

"It would be a tragedy if young people with the ability to benefit from going to university were to be put off by the level of the tuition fee."

Speaking to students from Bonus Pastor Catholic College in Bromley, Vince Cable MP, the Liberal Democrats' Business Secretary, not surprisingly disagreed.

Vince Cable talks about apprenticeships... and gives dancing tips to students

"The fact you come from a relatively poor background shouldn't have anything to do with it," he said.

As he discussed the benefits of apprenticeships with the students and addressed several other vexing issues, Cable acknowledged that his job as a politician could be stressful - partly because of the influence of the media.

"It is very stressful because you're working from very early in the morning to very late at night," he said. "The newspapers and TV are waiting for you to say something stupid or controversial. If you make a mistake, you get heavily criticised."

Cable, though, told the students he relaxed by dancing, although he described his experience of competing on BBC1 show Strictly Come Dancing as "very frightening!"

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