Press Releases

HISTORIC PRESS RELEASE : Public Spending in the Classroom – Opening up the Red Box [December 2002]

The press release issued by HM Treasury on 2 December 2002.

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 today.

‘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.”