Developing Youth Voice in Kirklees – Political Education, Powerful Not Pointless

A Notwestminster 2016 Lightning talk from Chloe Brown

Notwestminster lightning talks

Young people tell us that they don’t know enough about the way that our political systems work as they do not have access to political education in a set curriculum at school.

We think that political education, with a specific focus on local democracy, should be available to young people.

Having a good political education is empowering, even life changing. Young people are the future in the world of politics, so why deny them a head start? 

Video of Chloe’s talk

What Chloe said…

Kirklees Youth Council is one the best things that I ever decided to do. We are a non partisan group of young people from across Kirklees who as a whole are interested primarily in involving young people in the political process and informing them of how the system operates. We are also a completely open and diverse organisation and encourage anyone to join and talk at our meetings.

Throughout 2015 we rolled out an educational project at some secondary schools in Kirklees. The project mainly focused on informing young people about local decision making and how they get into the complicated structure. During this we also gathered information about young people’s concerns and what they thought the barriers were between them and the political process. To conclude the project we set up youth forums in some of the participating schools.

Political education is something I am very passionate about as I believe that, and I’m sure you’ll agree, that even in places where it may not be apparent, politics is at the stem of everything. Politics and how the political world changes will no doubt hugely affect the young people in the country and denying them the education they need to participate in discussion, inform others and in the long run it may also be denying them the chance of, when the time comes, voting with a clear,  informed and non biased decision behind that choice.

The fact that children and young people throughout their educational life are not taught the fundamental basics of how our country runs and how they are affected by the decisions that people make for them is highly distressing to me. To make it worse, young people are then criticised in the media when the percentage of young people voting once again just isn’t what it should be. This leads people into the trap of thinking that young people aren’t voting simply because they don’t care. This is blatantly not true.

I’m not saying that every young person I’ve ever met or spoken to is as passionate about politics as I am but I’ve never met anyone who didn’t care about how they were going to be affected by the laws and regulations enforced on to them. The idea that young people don’t care about politics has caused some politicians to give up on gaining the trust and seeking the vote of the young people simply because they don’t believe it will help them. However if every person in the 18-24 category voted there is no way that that wouldn’t impact the overall outcome. Work by the eurobarometer suggested that young British adults are among the least engaged with the political process when compared with their peers across Europe and that they are the less likely to be on the electoral register than any of the other age groups, which is terrifying.

I can’t sit here and preach to you about how I’m fed up of not having a say and that I’m annoyed that I can’t vote at sixteen when I can get a part time job, enlist in the army and I can even legally drive before I get a say on who runs out country, but I can say that in the past year and half of working with the youth council and making an effort to have more engaging conversations and through the projects we’ve rolled out , I’ve learnt that my opinions are shared. Young people don’t see themselves as able to make a difference simply because they aren’t taught of the real power they could have and they aren’t taught about how the decisions made by people down in London and even in our local government do affect them and the young people can affect their decisions.

Now some of you will be thinking that if young people cared so much then they have access to loads of information on the Internet that would help them make informed decisions and help them have the knowledge that they need, however the information that young people need has to be unbiased, de-cluttered of jargon and relevant to them. Young people need to know about the things that are happening that affect them, they need to be told what the terms that politicians spew out actually mean. Bringing political education into schools will provide young people with vital information that is needed in everyday life. Young people should know about which party is doing the best for them and about which parties to avoid, they should know the names of the people who make decisions on their behalf, whether that is locally or nationally.

Young people have a right to know about political matters and have a right to have an opinion that they can argue behind. Depriving them of that, even if not intentionally, is not okay and to use something that I’ve said many times before, in 20 years time when people are sat at home complaining about the lack of good quality politicians who care about the issues that they themselves care about yet when their child asks who the person on the telly is and they get told that’s just grown up stuff, then they are part of the problem.

As simple as it may seem, it’s true that if we don’t inspire and create passionate young politicians now then we won’t be having any inspired and passionate politicians in the future. Politics is a major part of everyday life even if not in an obvious way. Social politics will undoubtedly change people’s lifestyles and upbringing simply because society and its core concepts operate around the political systems we have created.

I understand that some of you may think that political education in schools is a waste as it might not be what every teenager wants to sit down and do for an hour every week, but not offering that opportunity is a way just like many others that the educational system stops personal development and individuality. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and one day you might be reading through a list of policies and see an opinion that was formed in a classroom when debating on an issue that they found important.

We want good, honest and better politicians for this country. Why not give the next generation of them a head start?

– Chloe Brown, Kirklees Youth Council

Supporting information

As a Youth Council we have been working hard to increase the number of young people who have the skills and ability to engage with policy and decision makers and become active in their own communities.

Developing Youth Voice in Kirklees (PDF)

ChloeChloe Brown
Youth Councillor
Kirklees Youth Council

Chloe Brown has been an active member of Kirklees Youth Council for over a year. She has taken a lead role in many projects and has worked in partnership with agencies including Locala, Kirklees Safeguarding Children Board and Kirklees Council.

Kirklees Youth Council


Lightning talks list

Notwestminster 2016 


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