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9 June, 2004

Award-winning young political journalist challenges peers to get involved in politics

Liz Williams, 16, winner of the print category in the new National Political Journalism Competition, used her entry to urge other young people to participate. “We must use the luxury of our democracy to make our views count,” she writes. “This is our duty and our responsibility, but more importantly it is our privilege”.

Organised by the Citizenship Foundation and sponsored by Norwich Union, the National Political Journalism Competition invites 11-18 year olds to experience first-hand the relationship between politics and the media by tackling a political issue of their choice in print, TV or radio.

Launched in summer 2003, the competition attracted 240 team entries in its first year and demonstrated the range of political issues that engage young people. The most popular subjects included anti-social behaviour, lowering the voting age, and student top-up fees.

The winners are announced today, chosen by a panel from the BBC, Channel 4, The Times and The Mirror.

Liz Williams from Maiden Erlegh School in Reading was named Best Political Print Journalist and the Best Political Broadcast Journalist prize was awarded to four pupils from The Stanway School in Colchester. Nicholas Clarke (15), Andrew Hippisley (14), Kelly Hopkinson (15) and Claire Hazell (15) chose to tackle the controversial issue of Higher Education funding – and obtained an interview with Education Secretary Charles Clarke for their award-winning TV piece.

Liz Williams compares most young people’s attitude to politics to ‘people-watching.’ “We’re observers on the outside,” she writes. “But isn’t it better and braver to get involved?”

She and her fellow winners have certainly done so. Their reward includes invitations to Downing Street and a reception at Parliament on 30 June, where they will receive their prizes from the BBC’s political editor, Andrew Marr.

Winner Liz Williams says, “Taking part in the competition was a challenge, both to my personality and my abilities. Since entering, my whole attitude to politics has matured into a fuller and more positive understanding.”

Tony Breslin, Chief Executive of the Citizenship Foundation, comments: “The entries to this new competition demonstrate young people’s passion about a wide range of political issues. Learning opportunities like this provide the skills and understanding to harness that passion to promote long-term engagement in our democracy. This has never been more important or timely.”

Simon Machell, Norwich Union, comments: “We are delighted to be working with the Citizenship Foundation on the National Political Journalism Competition. The quality of entries has not only been impressive from the level of effort and understanding of the political process but has opened my eyes to how diverse and knowledgeable young people are on topics far and wide.”

To find out more please email:

Notes for editors:

1. The Citizenship Foundation is an independent charity (no. 801360) which aims to empower individuals to engage in the wider community through education about the law, democracy and society. Founded in 1989, we focus particularly on developing young people’s citizenship skills, knowledge and understanding.

Our work includes:

- A comprehensive range of citizenship resources for a wide audience from teachers to young offenders.

- Nationwide and international training programmes.

- National active learning projects for secondary schools.

- Community projects to develop citizenship education as a collective responsibility.

- Research to advance our understanding of best practice in citizenship education.

2. Sponsorship of the National Political Journalism Competition is part of Norwich Union’s responsible citizenship programme, which seeks to encourage individuals, business and Government not only to explore their rights but to take responsibility for their actions. (www.aviva.com).

3. Launched at Downing Street in June 2003, the National Political Journalism Competition is open to 11-18 year olds across the UK, working in teams or as individuals. The competition runs alongside the National Youth Parliament Competition, which will also award its prizewinners at the House of Lords reception on 30 June.

4. The judging panel consisted of:

- Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Presenter, Channel 4 News

- Iain Watson, political correspondent, The Today Programme, BBC Radio 4

- John Sopel, Presenter, BBC News 24 and Newsnight

- Michael Crick, BBC Newsnight

- David Seymour, Political Editor, Trinity Mirror

- Mary Ann Sieghart, Assistant Editor, The Times

- Michael Brunson OBE, Citizenship Foundation Trustee and former ITN Political Editor

- Richard Acworth, Public Affairs Manager, Norwich Union

5. The National Political Journalism Competition supports the statutory Citizenship curriculum for 11-16 year olds in England.

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