On Tuesday 22nd March The British Youth Council and the Cabinet Office hosted a reception and debate to celebrate the achievements of the Discovering Democracy initiative. 64 schools won awards for their commitment to encouraging pupils to take an interest in the democratic process – both within the school or through a social action project in the local community, such as engaging with the UK Youth Parliament.
The awards ceremony took place in the House of Commons where schools were presented with awards by the Chairman of the British Youth Council, Jon Foster and the Minister for Constitutional Reform, John Penrose MP.
Introducing the event was Jon Foster, who described the awards as recognising the importance and excellence of democracy in schools, and two guest speakers, Sam Marshall from Xaverian College and Ciaron Farrell from Corelli College, made presentations on the importance of a democratic governing school body through their school council and the opportunities to engage and register young people as voters in public elections.
The host, John Penrose MP, then opened up the debate with a Q&A session, questioning the importance of youth engagement in politics, whether voting should be given to those aged 16 and 17, the priority of having a curriculum for life, and the importance of activism in the community. Describing the significance of the awards, he said “Democracy is only as healthy as the people involved in it; the huge variety of democracy shown in these schools will bring democracy back to life through participation and involvement”.
The Discovering Democracy Awards were an overall success in terms of school participation. 91 schools submitted applications from around the UK in this pilot phase of the initiative. 64 received awards, including 28 State schools and 36 Academy schools applied and, in total.
In addition to the certificates that they have been awarded with, the winning schools will also be named in a BYC national register of good practice which will be shared with the Electoral Commission and Ofsted.
The British Youth Council are marking International Women’s Day and the 2016 campaign theme ‘Pledge For Parity’. International Women’s Day is an opportunity for us to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women but it’s also an opportunity for us to highlight the issues that are apparent and can’t be ignored.
Anna Barker, Vice Chair of Participation & Development for British Youth Council said:
“So much has been done to shatter glass ceilings at every level, and we must use this day to thank all of the incredible individuals who have fought for a better world for all genders. We must also use this day to highlight the conscious and unconscious bias that still exists across the globe. Today I am pledging to value women and men’s contributions equally and to shine a light on the most dramatic and obvious example of discrimination – despite the Equal Pay Act 45 years ago, women in the UK can expect to earn an average of 14% less than their male colleagues. Please your day to celebrate the women in your life, be conscious of everyday sexism and to fight for a better future for all.”
British Youth Council member, Girlguiding, have been highlighting inspiring young women. Tweet us (@bycLIVE) young women you feel are inspiring too!
— Girlguiding (@Girlguiding) March 8, 2016
The Government has today (Thursday 25th February 2016) released its Official Response to the British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee Report – ‘Young People’s Mental Health’. The joint response from the Department for Education and Department of Health declares mental health and well-being as a ‘top priority in both departments’. It goes on to state that mental health has been “undervalued, underfunded and under prioritised for far too long”.
The Government has taken on board a number of the committee’s recommendations and has committed to “work with young people throughout” as it implements a number of measures. The response continues to state that “It is crucial that we work with young people throughout these changes – as only young people truly understand what they need from their services.” Both departments have acknowledged in particular the role of schools and the curriculum to prepare young people by providing a mental, as well as a physical, health education.
Alistair Burt MP, Minister for Community and Social Care and Sam Gyimah MP, Minister for Childcare and Education praised a “well – informed and thoughtful report” and highlighted the Youth Select Committee’s “professionalism, passion and ability to ask the right questions”.
The response follows the Youth Select Committee’s inquiry, which launched in April 2015, considered both written and oral evidence and concluded that mental health services for young people are critically underfunded, with much work required to break down the stigma associated with mental health problems. In the report, published in November 2015, the Committee offered recommendations across three key areas: funding and the state of services, a role for education and awareness, stigma and digital culture.
Throughout the inquiry evidence was gathered from a range of witnesses, including charities, young people, academics, Ministers and health and education professionals. The inquiry was triggered after the issue topped the UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark ballot in 2014 of 877,488 young people in the UK. It remains a priority campaign for 2016.
Following the publication of the report, the Department of Health has commissioned a review of the “You’re Welcome” toolkit which assesses the level and quality of youth friendly services.
Rhys Hart,Chair of the Youth Select Committee said:”The Youth Select Committee’s comprehensive investigation discovered some important and serious issues around the current state of young people’s mental health services, we’re glad to see the Government accept our findings and are not only acting on some of our recommendations but have also made it clear mental health is a priority at both the Department for Education and Department of Health. Young people need to be at the forefront of the changes being made so I’m delighted to see the Government have committed to working with young people throughout.”
Alistair Burt MP, Minister for Community and Social Care, said: “When I first met with the Youth Select Committee I was struck by their passion and commitment; it gave me great hope for the young people they represent all across the country. As we start the biggest transformation of youth mental health services in the history of the NHS through our 1.4 billion investment, it is vital that we continue to involve young people every step of the way.”
Sam Gyimah MP, Minister for Childcare and Education, with responsibility for young people’s mental health, said: “I have been genuinely impressed by the dedication of the Youth Select Committee to raise awareness of the challenges that young people with mental health issues face. We are at a turning point in how we tackle children’s mental wellbeing, however, it is only by working together with young people that we can make a genuine difference.
“We have already taken significant steps with more funding for charities that support young people’s mental health, advice to schools on how to improve counselling for pupils and a pilot scheme to look at better ways of linking schools and local health services. Now we are turning to young people to hear directly from them about how we can help them support their peers. We will use their feedback to inform new projects which we’re backing with £1.5million.”
British Youth Council members have chosen to prioritise mental health, votes at 16, and youth services as campaigns for 2016. During each year-long campaign, we’ll be building on the successes of our current mental health campaign, refreshing our campaign effort to save youth services across the country and reminding the Government why we think it’s important 16 and 17 year olds are given the opportunity to vote in all UK public elections and referenda.
The three issues, which were voted as priorities by our members, will build on the work we’ve done with partners to advance each campaign to a new level of debate. Our mental health campaign, which has included an in-depth inquiry into led by the Youth Select Committee on ‘Young People’s Mental Health’, will continue to target Government and local commissioners for further funding and better services for children and young people up and down the country. The Government has promised a formal response.
In our campaign to lower the voting age to 16, we aim to remind politicians of the precedent set by the Scottish Referendum which saw record levels of 16 and 17 year olds across Scotland voting for the very first time in history. This year we’re hoping the common sense argument will prevail – that alongside a ‘curriculum for life’ with citizenship/political education and easy voter registration, votes at 16 is good for the future of democracy. We believe there is growing support amongst Members of Parliament, as this becomes an question of equal rights (with Scotland) as well as good governance. You can find out more about votes at 16 and the coalition on our brand new website.
Lastly, in our campaign to save youth services, we aim to work closely with the national and local government to ensure that youth services are a core priority across the country despite the cuts to local authority budgets. We will also explore and encourage local partnerships involving young people to propose pragmatic solutions where there is unmet need.
Commenting on the new campaigns, Jon Foster, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “It’s absolutely imperative that we continue to be a loud voice on mental health and wellbeing, lowering the voting age to 16 and youth services. We’ll need to work hard to ensure all three issues are kept fully on the agendas of decision makers in the country because these are the issues that young people really care about!”
In the coming months we’ll be forming new partnerships and campaign actions to ensure mental health and wellbeing, the voting age and save our services are highlighted at every opportunity throughout the year.
Each month we invite youth representatives, including Members of Youth Parliament (MYPs), Deputy Members of Youth Parliament (DMYPs), Youth Councillors, Young Mayors and Deputy Young Mayors to share their stories of the positive activities they have been engaging in recently.
We also give workers the opportunity to update us on the activities of the youth groups they work with and support. The British Youth Council shares this report regionally and nationally, with local councillors and MPs, in order to raise the profile of the fantastic local work that we know is happening every day.
As part of commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child Article 13 – Freedom of expression: ‘Every child must be free to say what they think and to seek and receive all kinds of information, as long as it is within the law’ (UNICEF UK) our content is split into two parts:
- Positive activities stories from youth representatives (including Members of Youth Parliament (MYPs), Deputy Members of Youth Parliament (DMYPs), Youth Councillors, Young Mayors and Deputy Young Mayors)
- Update from support workers on the activities of the youth groups they work with and support
The case studies and stories of the work of young people in their local communities are reproduced here in their own words. If you would like to find out more about one of the projects you read about in this report, please email: email@example.com
November and December’s report is available to download below. The case studies and stories of the work of young people in their local communities are reproduced here in their own words.
41 schools have today (Tuesday 26th January 2016) been awarded a Discovering Democracy Award by the British Youth Council in recognition of their commitment to a democracy curriculum and raising awareness of democracy. Winning schools were judged to be good practice examples in this Government backed initiative which is encouraging pupils to have their say in society – both within the school or through social action projects in the local community.
The award for schools, which was launched last year by the British Youth Council in partnership with the Cabinet Office and the Department for Education in September. Nominations for new schools and colleges have now been closed. The list of winning schools (below) will be shared with Ofsted.
The award aims to showcase those schools who engage young people, particularly those aged 16+, with democracy from an early age, whether that is voting for their representatives or a school council, or voter registration, or getting involved in social action campaigns.
All awards were judged by a panel including young people and will celebrate and share the success of schools and colleges that go further in equipping their students with the skills and knowledge to use their voice in our society.
Jon Foster, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “I’m excited that yet more schools are enabling their pupils to take part in social action in their local areas. It’s so important that we highlight how important it is to offer pupils and opportunity to take part in grassroots democracy. It’s great to see so many school encouraging pupils to take an interest in the democratic process.”
The following schools have been named as winners:
|Ashley School, Cheshire|
|Greenfaulds High School, Cumbernauld|
|George Greens School, London|
|Parkstone Grammar School|
|East Norfolk Sixth Form College|
|Manchester Creative & Media Academy|
|Brine Leas School|
|Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, Cheshire|
|The St Philip Howard Catholic High School, Barnham|
|Jewish Community Secondary School, Hertfordshire|
|Hilbre High School Humanities College, Wirral|
|Bentley Wood High School for Girls, Middlesex|
|Pate’s Grammar School, Gloucestershire|
|Little Heath School, Romford|
|Sandbach High School and Sixth Form College, Cheshire|
|Sir Robert Woodard Academy, Lancing|
|Avonbourne Trust, Dorset|
|Marshalls Park School, Essex|
|Queens Park Community School, London|
|Ilford County High School, Cumbria|
|Queen Elizabeth Grammar School|
|Stamford Endowed Schools, Lincolnshire|
|Summerhill School, Suffolk|
|The Blackpool Sixth Form College|
|Blessed Hugh Faringdon Catholic School, Reading|
|Manchester Enterprise Academy|
|Fairlands Middle School, Somerset|
|Royal Wootton Bassett Academy, Wiltshire|
|Priestley College, Warrington|
|Upper Shirley High School, Southampton|
|Walthamstow Hall, Kent|
|Forest Hill School|
|South Bromsgrove High Academy Trust|
|Walkden High School, Manchester|
|St Albans Catholic High School, Suffolk|
|The Stourport High School Sixth Form College|
|Selby High School|
|High Storrs School, Sheffield|
|Liskeard School and Community College|
|Easthampstead Park Community School, Berkshire|
On Wednesday 20th January 2016, Rob Wilson MP, Minister for Civil Society announced the Government’s commitment to continued funding for the British Youth Council to support its Youth Voice initiative including the UK Youth Parliament until 2020. In a speech to supporters during a celebration of last year’s award winning Make Your Mark campaign he revealed that he intends to offer a long term grant to the British Youth Council to maintain its work in relation to UK Youth Parliament and associated activities.
The celebratory event in Westminster, was hosted by John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons at Parliament to recognise the success of the UK Youth Parliament’s Make Your Mark ballot last year, and mobilise the views of 969,992 young people across the UK, cementing its place at the UK’s largest referendum of young people. The evening of celebration recognised the successes of individual young people, local authorities and schools with awards.
Rob Wilson MP, Minister for Civil Society, who addressed the audience of young people, local authorities and parents renewed his support for the UK Youth Parliament, saying that the Make Your Mark campaign had “captured the imagination of young people and schools across our country”
In reaction to the positive news Jon Foster, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “Young people around the country will have a renewed sense of worth knowing the Government values their views and opinions. I’m really looking forward to working with the Government and our supporters to ensure that together we can continue to play an active role in our democracy.”
Minhaz Abedin, 17, Member of Youth Parliament for Leeds Member of Youth Parliament for Leeds who is due to join the UK Youth Parliament Procedures Group for 2016 said: “It’s absolutely fantastic news that the Government will be continuing the invest in the voice of young people! It’s absolutely imperative that young people are at the table when decisions are being made that will affect them and their future!”
James Cathcart, CEO of the British Youth Council added: “We are very pleased with this commitment and stability which will enable us to confidently appeal for matched funding, donations and sponsorship to deliver the full range of opportunities in the Youth Voice initiative. If anyone would like to join us as funding partners, or make a donation – please contact us!”
Find out more about the UK Youth Parliament:www.ukyouthparliament.org.uk
UK Youth Parliament has commenced their year-long campaign to tackle racism and religious discrimination, particularly against people who are Muslim and Jewish. ‘Don’t Hate, Educate!’ aims to ‘help young people speak out’ about racism and religious discrimination. Today’s National Day of Action will see Members of Youth Parliament call on politicians and schools to take part in campaign activities such as talks, and awareness raising event’
Over the next year, UK Youth Parliament will campaign, in partnership with Kick It Out, to challenge negative attitudes around race and religion; work with others to educate their communities in order to tackle ignorance around race and religion; and promote integration in their communities. Kick It Out, works within the football, educational and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and work for positive change in its day-to-day work and we’re looking forward to working more closely.
The campaign starts following the Make Your Mark ballot which took place in the autumn of 2015 seeing the issue become one of the top five with 95,000 young people nominating it as their most important issue and then the subsequent vote by Members of Youth Parliament in House of Commons to make this their national campaign in November 2015.
Rahima Begum, 17, Member of Youth Parliament for Hammersmith and Fulham who spoke on the issue during the 2015 House of Commons debate said: “Our campaign has come at a very important time! It’s absolutely abhorrent that in 2016 we’re still seeing such high amounts of racism and religious discrimination across the country. I’m so glad we’ll be focussing on such an important issue that many feel unable to speak out about. Let’s remind everyone its wrong and it has no place in our society!”
Rosin Wood, Director of Kick It Out who are partnering with the campaign said: “Kick It Out is pleased to be working in partnership with Youth Parliament for the ‘Don’t Hate Educate’ campaign. With hate-crime statistics increasing in England and Wales, Kick It Out is urging immediate action to be taken to eradicate this behaviour across football and society. The Youth Parliament is leading the way on this matter by being proactive in raising awareness of hate-crime and its negative effects.”
There has been an increases in race and religion related hate crimes between 2014 and 2015 according to Home Office figures. In England and Wales the Home Office reported that there were 42,930 race related hate crimes (representing a 15% increase from the year before) and 3,254 religion related hate crimes (43% increase from the year before). Similarly in Northern Ireland, 2,277 race related incidents and crimes were reported showing a 36% increase from the year before. 80 religion related crimes and incidents were also reported showing an increase of 116% from the year before according to Police Service of Northern Ireland. The only exception in this trend has been in Scotland where the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service reported there was a 9% decrease race related hate crimes and a 4% decrease religiously aggravated crimes.
Ali Drabu, Member of Youth Parliament for Manchester, who proposed the issue was added to the UK Youth Parliament’s manifesto in 2015 said: “In a time when extremism in the UK is on the rise, the UK Youth Parliament campaign will play a paramount role in bringing people together of all ethnicities and all races to successfully combat these vicious forms of hatred and build a better, more cohesive society for the future.”
You can find out more about the campaign here: ukyouthparliament.org.uk/donthateeducate
The British Youth Council and Votes at 16 Coalition are disappointed to see the Government have blocked the Lords proposal to include 16 and 17 year olds a vote in the “In Out” EU Referendum due to be taken in 2017. The block comes after a sustained campaign calling on the Government to follow the precedent set by the Scottish Referendum which saw record levels of voting from young people.
The latest setback in the House of Commons saw Members of Parliament vote 303 to 253 to reject the Lords amendment to the European Union Referendum Bill in an attempt to block any further moves to give 16 and 17-year-olds the vote despite the Votes at 16 Coalition’s continuous calls for their inclusion since the bill was tabled by the Government in March 2015.
Ife Grillo, Vice Chair of Campaigns and Communications, British Youth Council said: “It’s really sad to see the Government have blocked the Lords amendment which was set to see 1.5 million 16 and 17 year olds enfranchised for the EU Referendum! Time and time again we’re having to go backwards and forwards on this debate and it’s about time we did what was right for young people living in the UK! This is a late but necessary change in our voting system”
In reaction to the Government’s rejection of the amendment, Jon Foster, Chair, British Youth Council said: “The Government have now resorted to using the cost of the introduction of votes at 16 as their main argument for not lowering the voting age for the EU Referendum but surely when young people are knocking on the door of democracy its worth every penny of investment! Young people should be at the table for this historical vote and it’s now clear from the precedent set by Scottish 16 and 17 year olds that young people are more than ready to take part!”
The British Youth Council has been campaigning for the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year olds for 17 years and we’ll be continuing to push the Lords to rebel against despite the Commons’ ‘financial privilege’. As noted in UCL’s Report ‘Demystifying Financial Privilege’ the Lords could still table similar amendments in an attempt to force the bill to include a lower voting age.
Support across the UK for votes at 16 is building up, particular after last years Scottish Referendum which saw 80% voter registration and 75% voter turnout among 16 and 17 year olds, discarding arguments reporting a lack of appetite for involvement among young people. The Youth Select Committee’s report which was released in the Autumn of 2015 ruled that now was the time to implement measures for all public elections and referendums and further to that we have the recommendations of the Electoral Commission, which after careful analysis of the Scottish Referendum, outlines what should be considered in the event the franchise is amended to include 16 and 17 year olds means we have both the demand and expertise to repeat this again for the EU Referendum. Not to mention the clear support from the Scottish Government, National Assembly of Wales, the Northern Ireland Assembly and a growing number of English local authorities which it is making it untenable to deny 16 and 17 year olds the vote during any other elections or public referendums.