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.