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27 October, 2004

Young parliamentary award-winners dispel voter apathy myth

St.Michael’s RC Specialist School in Billingham was named ‘Best Team’ in the UK, the top prize in the National Youth Parliament Competition in 2003/04, winning an unforgettable visit to Downing Street. This is the fourth time in the competition’s 14 years that they have won this accolade. Why not follow in their footsteps and make your school a winner in 2005?

With the recent US elections and the UK elections next year, what better time to debate the big national issues. Teams can tackle issues such smoking in public places, gambling, anti-social behaviour and voting at 16. Organised by the Citizenship Foundation and sponsored by Norwich Union, the National Youth Parliament Competition helps bring to life the process of politics and government by offering young people the opportunity to set up their own parliamentary session.

Rt Hon David Blunkett MP, Home Secretary said: “Young people are vital to the health and strength of our democracy. It is important that young people are helped to appreciate the importance of engaging with the community both locally and nationally, because they have much to offer as active citizens. The Citizenship Foundation's National Youth Parliament Competition makes an important contribution to this goal. The interest shown by all the entrants, and the high quality of the winners' entries in particular, are clear indications that by engaging and developing young people today we are nurturing the leaders of tomorrow."

Stephen Twigg MP, Minister for Schools, said: “These competitions make an invaluable contribution to active citizenship. The opportunity for young people to learn actively about our democratic process and the role of those in public life is an apprenticeship I hope will stay with them for a long time.”

Assistant head teacher at St. Michael’s, Eddie Curran, said, “The National Youth Parliament Competition provides a challenging and particularly worthwhile educational experience for pupils from the age of 11 upwards. Members of our team say they they gained a great deal from participating. Making the video was great fun too!”

Tony Breslin, Chief Executive of the Citizenship Foundation, said: “All the participants in the National Youth Parliament Competition gained invaluable skills and understanding for long-term engagement in our democracy. St Michael’s had the added benefit of a very well-deserved success.”

A team of 11-18 year olds recreate the parliamentary chamber, take on the roles of Government, Opposition and backbench MPs, and make a 20-minute video of their debate on a mock bill. The Citizenship Foundation will suggest national issues for debate, for which accompanying resource packs will be available online. Teams can also debate an issue of their choice. The videos are judged by MPs in Westminster with awards at regional and national levels.

As well as building on skills such as research, problem-solving and communication, the winners are invited to a reception at Parliament. There are regional and national awards up for grabs, not only for that of Best Team, but also for Best Prime Minister, Best Backbencher and Best Opposition Spokesperson. Winning teams also receive digital video cameras.

The deadline for registering this year 1st December 2004, and entries must be sent in by 17th March, 2005). For more details contact the Citizenship Foundation on 0207 367 0500 or visit www.citizenshipfoundation.org.uk/npyc.

To find out more please email:

Notes for editors:

1. Now in its 14th year, the National Youth Parliament Competition is open to 11-18 year olds across the UK, whether as a school or youth group entry, or independently. Cross-party panels of MPs and political journalists judge entries.

2. The competition runs alongside the National Political Journalism Competition, which challenges young people (11-18 year olds) to experience first-hand the relationship between politics and the media. They are asked to tackle a local, national and international political issue of their choice. Small teams or individuals take on the roles of media professionals and create real news pieces in print, TV or radio.

3. Sponsorship of the National Youth Parliament 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).

4. The National Youth Parliament Competition supports the Citizenship curriculum, which became compulsory for 11-16 year olds in England in September 2002.

5. Photos are available of competition winners.

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