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18 May, 2005

Citizenship education is important say young people

On May 12th, the Citizenship Foundation held a press roundtable entitled 'In Search of the Youth Vote' in Westminster. When asked whether Citizenship education, a key strand of which is political literacy, should be taught in schools, all of the young people in attendance were firmly in favour.

Participants in the 'press roundtable' standing outside Parliament.
Young people met at parliament to share their views with the press

The event, one week after a general election in which only an estimated 37 per cent of 18-24 year olds voted, explored young people’s interest and participation in politics, both at a national level and locally, through projects such as Youth Act!, in their local communities.

The roundtable, chaired by Michael Brunson, ex-ITN political news editor and trustee of the Citizenship Foundation, enabled a wide variety of contributions from a number of young people and organisations involved in the field of politics, political education and community projects. Among the attendees were young people at or approaching voting age, including those that were engaged with national politics and those that were not. They included:

• Will Smith (18)– chair of the Youth Advisory Committee, Lewisham and candidate in the Young Mayor election 2004

• Jessica Lever (17) – pupil from Watford Girls Grammar who addressed the Conservative Party Conference 2004

• Liz Williams (17)– winner of the Citizenship Foundation's National Political Journalism Competition 2004

• Vanessa Moreno (18) – member of Youth Act group, focusing on sexual crime, Southwark

• Nicola Mclean (17) – member of Lambeth Youth Council + Youth Act Advisory Group

• Tom Etheridge (15)– Robert May’s School – National Youth Parliament Competition (Prime Minister)/National Political Journalism entrant 2005

• Will Bright (14) - Robert May’s School – National Youth Parliament Competition entrant 2005

The young people brought not only their views to the table but also those of their peers at school, college or youth groups.

The organisations in attendance included:

• Chris Rowe, youth worker and 'Your Party' election candidate

• Fiona Booth, education director, Hansard Society: http://www.hansard-society.org.uk/;

• Helen Lim, project officer, Post 16 Citizenship Development Programme, LSDA

• Yemi Akinfenwa, youth worker, Youth Act, leading the award winning Stonebridge Road Estate group

• Andre Schott, Fitzrovia Youth in Action http://www.youth-action.org.uk/network/fitzrovia.html

• Faizal Hakim, Operation Black Vote: www.obv.org.uk

• Tony Breslin, chief executive, Citizenship Foundation

• Carrie Supple, manager, Youth Act, at the Citizenship Foundation

The overall feeling was that young people are interested, but they do not necessarily feel listened to. And the recent election campaign had not helped in this respect. However, they did feel that they could make a difference in their local communities – and many of them are doing so.

Journalists who confirmed their attendance included Newsround, the Mirror Group, the Telegraph, Shabaab, the Guardian and Radio One.

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