As a Member of Youth Parliament, I have the privilege of representing the views of young people and communicating them to visionaries and influencers. Following the Youth Parliament’s recent debates in the House of Commons, Tofumni, Oscar and myself, as Members of Youth Parliament, were invited to meet with David Lidington, Leader of the House of Commons, and Chris Skidmore, Minister for the Constitution. We sat down, exchanging greetings brief recollections from the events that took place in the House of Commons just a number of days before. We then began to discuss the issues at hand, starting with Votes at 16. Us MYPs expressed the want for us to take part in democracy and make politics more accessible. We raised the point about the confusion caused by the disparity of privileges received at 16 and 18, and we said that, because of how we are informed and how much we are aware, we are ready. We used the example of Scotland having the vote and Chris Skidmore, Minister for the Constitution, mentioned Wales’ government is considering lowering the age. However, he also mentioned how the Government is bound by their manifesto, which isn’t in support of Votes at 16. That’s not a reason to stop pushing, we concluded, as we are closer than ever before.
We also discussed the prospects of “a curriculum to prepare us for life” and how it would look in our schools. We communicated that the quality of our PSHE lessons aren’t up to where they need to be, and the Leader of the House agreed. Since I spoke about this issue at the dispatch box, I mentioned the lack of teacher’s training in PSHE, and that if there’s going to be quality PSHE teaching, there has to be quality courses so that they can teach us effectively. We also conversed about the idea of putting life skills at the forefront of our curriculum by having questions about life skills in the exams. For example, a health unit in Biology, a CV writing unit in English, a finance unit in Maths and so on; we felt implementing life skills this way is practical and effective, and research after the meeting shows this is already in place in some schools in the country.
Finally, our meeting moved to the topic of the potential of a kinder, better democracy, where 16 year olds can vote; where there’s not as much animosity in PMQ’s and the point is addressed, not the person; where the House of Commons is in the shape of a circle, not the (at times) confrontational current setup. The Leader of the House and The Minister of the Constitution listened attentively as the vision from the younger generation was spoken.
Overall, the meeting went very well! For me, it represented the views of young people rising up further on our government’s priority and it represents a shift in the attitude towards young people. From here, my hope is that we keep building, so the views of young people are heard and acted upon.