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22 July, 2010

Young people tell senior politicians to keep supporting citizenship education

Young competition winners and campaigners met with senior politicians yesterday in the House of Lords, to share their experiences of citizenship education.

The young people explained to politicians (including Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society and Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General) how important it is for the government to support citizenship education in schools.

The event provided a platform for individual campaigners and groups, who are champions of change in their community, to discuss and debate issues of concern to them as well as recognising the successes of Citizenship Foundation competition winners. All of the young campaigners or groups presented their cause and were responded to by a relevant politician. The Citizenship Foundation held the event to demonstrate what young people are able to achieve when they are equipped with the skills and knowledge gained through experiencing active citizenship.

Bex Bailey, 18 and from Nottingham, is active in promoting student voice in her school and community. Bex, along with other students from Rushcliffe Comprehensive School, won the 2009 G-Nation Award and witnessed firsthand an international charity working in Cameroon. Bex's presentation focussed on her experience of witnessing the destruction of the rainforest in Cameroon and her campaign to raise awareness of the problem and what international charities are doing to solve it. Addressing the Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd MP, Bex said, ‘the government should support citizenship in schools as well as trips abroad [for young people] to investigate this type of work.'

Value Life, an anti-gun and knife crime campaign, began at Gladesmore Community School in 2004 following the students' involvement in Youth Act, a Citizenship Foundation project. In their first year the students organised a peace walk in Tottenham for young people and in every year since have organised a similar event, attracting thousands of young people. This year the Value Life group has created a film with students and professional actors (including Lindsey Coulson from Eastenders) about Jahmal Dimes, a 15 year old boy who manages to balance academic success and street credibility, until he gets caught up in a gun triangle. Valerie Okoampah, one of the young people representing Value Life at the ‘Young People Driving Change' event, explained the campaign and their work with Youth Act, saying ‘not only does it challenge the negative perceptions that surround young people, it also empowers young people to show that if you unite you can really make a change.'

Commenting on the event, Nick Hurd congratulated the Citizenship Foundation for its work with young people and said ‘[the] ‘big society' ... is all about trying to engage individuals with society and the truth is there's a lot of it happening already and what's important is to celebrate it, which is what we're doing today.'

The event was also a unique networking opportunity for the award winners and campaigners, and was used to launch the Citizenship Foundation's new Strategic Plan 2010-13. Share

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