Young people deserve a voice. The minority group we call youth includes the “hoodie” who nicked my mobile telephone, the 18 year-old winger your football team just signed, and the sixth former who will, some day around 2040, be elected Prime Minister. It’s unsurprising, then, that young people are eager participators in politics. All they need is a voice!
Our flagship youth engagement event, I’m a Councillor, Get me out of Here!, has finished for the sixth year. The event – featuring local councillors and young people from 22 counties across England, Wales and NI – put school pupils and youth group members in contact with local politicians live and online. Young people also met volunteers from abroad: a former MP from Taiwan, a political activist from Zimbabwe, a city politician from the Netherlands…
But, enough sales pitch. The best thing about I’m a Councillor isn’t the event: it’s the young people, who logged in, read manifestos, asked questions, completed quizzes, attended live chats, and so on. For our final report, we’ll focus on the young people that are I’m a Councillor‘s heart and soul.
What gets young people going? What did they ask about? How did their local councillors respond? Quotes, and a final report on the event, in this extended entry.
This year’s enthusiastic, engaged young participants asked a record
number of questions, tallied record numbers of votes, and wrote more
lines of chat than in any previous year. For some young people, the event was a chance to jump into local democracy, and speak out to councillors who were listening.
Young people weighed in on important local issues, especially local youth facilities:
A: I think if I am elected today then I will need to visit Bedwas School as the
first thing I do as there are lots of things that people in Bedwas are asking
for- we will have to work out what is possible first.
– Cllr Hefin David
Enthusiasm (and tenacity!) gets you heard. The councillors in Caerphilly County Borough Council reacted to intense interest in local youth facilities:
A: I can tell a lot of people want a skate park in Bedwas by the amount of people that asked the same question, my advice would be get a group of you together and ask the youth forum to set up some meetings with the right people in the council and let’s see if we can do something about it, if elected then i would support you to form a group, or alternatively whoever is elected as youth champion you can ask to help you to set up a group and some meetings.
– Cllr Lyndon Binding
It was exciting to watch councillors engage with young people. Hopefully, in a few months, we will report back on the continuing conversation between youth and councillors in Caerphilly and elsewhere. Watch this space!
There is a wonderful equity on the internet that helped young people and their councillors get in easy contact. Young people wanted to hear about local democracy from the inside, and the councillors opened up:
A: I do like being a Councillor yes. I spent long enough trying to become one so
I’d better enjoy it now hadn’t I?! Truthfully and occasionally some meetings can
go on too long which can be tiresome, particularly when you hear the same people
going on. (Never me though!).
– Cllr Jim O’Boyle, Coventry City Council
Young people used the event to voice their opinions on current affairs, too:
i just wanted to ask about sex education in schools – coz in school we get a bit and the stuff is good. … do u think ther should b more money invested in sex and relaitonships lessons to
try and stop the number of girls having babies?coz the number is quite high. so
if there was more money, it would like benefit people more … i think every1 should do it and other good things to do with sex / love in
schools, coz we need more! what is ur response?
Totally agree with you, unwanted pregnancy can mess up young lives,and STD’s are
bad news.We do need to invest more in teaching and telling about relationships,
I’ve been married 10 years and it isn’t always easy.The problem is that a lot of
Councillors don’t want to discuss it, some of them get embarrassed easily.I like
your thoughtful mature attitude.
– Cllr Nic Hodges, Vale of Glamorgan Council
Proposed reform of ‘sex and relationships’ education is a very topical issue, commonly mentioned in this month’s news headlines… but have you ever heard John Humphrys interview a school pupil about it? Speaking directly to her local councillor, BubblyJo supports the curriculum, asks the councillor for his angle on teen pregnancy, and voices her hope for more good work on sex and relationships education in schools.
BubblyJo spoke out, and she wasn’t alone. We find again and again that young people are better informed, and care more about their local area than most adults assume, even the ones who work with them all day. As one teacher told us:-
“I was delighted to find out how much our pupils actually cared about our
This year’s young participants were the most active on record, and enthusiastic about getting involved in politics. They want to vote:
Q: do you think that the voting age with in the uk should be lowed to 16 stay the same or even be raised to 21.
… to change things in their local area:
Q: the government wants more over 16`s to carry on in to further education. so why are they stopping sensible transport schemes like the freedom passes for the over 16`s??.
… and to find out more about politics across the world. This question was submitted to Cho-Shui Lin, political activist, journalist, and former MP from Taiwan:
Q: Y was Publishing illegal magazine during period of Martial Law the bestthing u have done!!!!
A: Publishing dissident magazine during the Martial Law era was a very
risky job. During that tense time, many comrades and I fought for
Taiwan’s freedom of speech. Even though many including myself were
jailed during that period of time, I still look back to those days as
the best days of my life, because I fought for my ideals.
– Cho-Shui Lin, Taiwan
Mr. Lin was elected by the young people as international champion. You can read more about the international volunteers in my earlier post. Huge thanks to our six international politicians and activists, all volunteers, who came on the site and talked to young people about life and politics across the world. They supported the main, local event, which was the most successful and active we have yet enjoyed:
Young people taking part: 4,266
Questions asked: 6,961
Page views: 130,600
We’re working with councils and schools to continue the positive trend next year. Most importantly, we’re trying hard to get young people involved. We should forget the empty platitudes about youth, “our greatest natural resource”, and instead focus on this demographic for what they are: an influential but often sidelined minority, eager to have a voice.