Government & Politics
The Social Science Department is more like a faculty, comprising as it does the subjects of GOVERNMENT & POLITICS, ECONOMICS and SOCIOLOGY. GCSE Law is sometimes offered to interested Lower 6th pupils who can fit the classes into their timetable.
The three main subjects in Social Science are only available at Advanced level and are therefore new to all pupils who choose to study them.
This has both advantages and disadvantages in that it gives all pupils a chance to start afresh, on an equal footing and with a new subject that may well spark renewed interest in study. The main disadvantage is that pupils begin with little or no background in all three subject areas and a fair amount of independent, but guided, reading is required to obtain the necessary detail which is needed to set issues and concepts into context.
We study the CCEA syllabus Government & Politics, which contains 2 modules in each Sixth Form year. In Lower 6th both modules are compulsory. In Middle 6th we choose to study the politics of the United States of America, looking at the Constitution and a study of the USA in comparison with the British system. With the USA so dominant in the media because of its power and influence in the world, studying American politics is important. We also choose to study the Philosophers to help our understanding of the concepts of socialism, conservatism and liberalism, important ideologies that have shaped, and continue to shape the policies of political parties.
Government and Politics of Northern Ireland
The British Political Process (Parliament, Prime Minister & cabinet, and Pressure Groups)
The US Constitution and a comparative study of the British and American systems of government
Political Philosophy & ideology: Burke (Conservatism), Mill (Liberalism) & Marx (Communism)
Why study Government & Politics?
Who took the decision that you had to be 16 to leave school or 18 to drink legally? Who decides what the universities can charge for fees? Where was the decision taken? Was it in Stormont, or Westminster or Brussels? How did these people get this kind of power? What ways are open to you to influence them to change their minds?
Politics is about conflict (disagreement) and the resolution of that disagreement. It would be a very boring world if we all agreed with each other, so conflict is an inevitable part of life. In a democracy this conflict is normally resolved through the political process, through elections or by peaceful protest. This is why we have Parliaments or Assemblies such as Westminster and Stormont.
What do our politicians get up to when they are elected? How do we know they are acting in our best interests? How can we keep an eye on them? How do they keep an eye on government to make sure they are doing what they said they would in their election promises (called a manifesto)? Why is the freedom of the press so important and a judicial system that is free of control from the politicians?
All these are the sorts of questions a study of Government and Politics involves. It will help develop skills of analysis, literacy and logic and is a very useful subject for careers in Law, Accountancy, Journalism, Business and the Public Sector, quite apart from those who wish to pursue a career in Politics itself. It encourages independent thinking, backed by the rigour of contemporary examples to illustrate any points made. In order to be successful in this subject, pupils must be prepared to keep up to date with current affairs and important issues.