The children’s charity, NSPCC, has released data showing that children and young people are facing a rising tide of racial hate crimes. Reported incidences of racially motivated abuse and bullying have increased by one fifth since 2015-16.
“I’m heartbroken to hear of the racism young BME students are facing in schools across the country and, regrettably, not shocked because their stories are very similar to my own”, says Larissa Kennedy, Trustee of the British Youth Council. In 2015 young people across the UK voted for racism and religious discrimination as one of the top five issues facing young people in the annual Make Your Mark ballot. This prompted the Youth Select Committee to undertake an inquiry into the issue in 2016.
“The Youth Select Committee received evidence from a range of young people sharing their experience of racial and religious discrimination, both in their communities and in schools,” says Kennedy. The Committee made a range of recommendations regarding actions that could be taken to better support schools and teachers to educate around this issue and to tackle racism when it does happen.
In the joint ministerial foreword to the government response, representatives of the Home Office, Department for Education and Department for Communities and Local Government stated “We are clear that no child should live in fear of racism or bullying. To this end, we have sent a clear message to schools that they need to challenge and tackle all forms of bullying and discrimination, including racism and religious discrimination.” In this response the government made no new commitments to tackle the issues raised by young people.
Whilst the sentiments of the Ministers were right, the British Youth Council believe it is time for action. Between attainment gaps, erasure from the national curriculum, disproportionate expulsions, discriminatory dress codes and these reports of racist incidents in schools, education is a right that young BME students are not currently being fully afforded. We must not only prevent and tackle racist incidents but institutional racism in the education system. The British Youth Council renews it’s call on the government to listen to young people and to work with us to actively eradicate racism in schools.
The British Youth Council have expressed their dissatisfaction with the Government’s continued opposition to a lower voting age. The unplanned EU Elections which take place on Thursday 23rd May will see 1.5 million young people aged 16 and 17 denied the opportunity to vote.
Over the past 16 years, the youth-led charity has been campaigning for the enfranchisement of 16 and 17 year olds. Research compiled by the Votes at 16 Coalition indicates unanimous cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament where they have introduced votes at 16 in Scottish Parliamentary elections and Local Council elections, increasing support across the green benches at Westminster and significant support in the Wales where the Welsh Assembly are due to introduce a lower voting age in 2021.
‘Unequal access to democracy’
16 and 17 year olds in Scotland had the chance to vote in the Scottish Referendum, continue to vote in the Scottish Parliamentary elections and Scottish Local Council elections and we are due to lower the voting age in the Welsh local elections in the near future. This continues to create unequal access to democracy across the UK.
Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the British Youth Council said: “It is simply unbelievable that we continue to deny 16 and 17 year olds the opportunity to vote in some elections. How can the Government justify this unequal situation?”
Earlier this year the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Votes at 16 released a campaign report.
On Thursday 11th April, the British Youth Council launched the Work Experience Action Group in a bid to combat unequal access to work experience. The new focus group, which is made possible by a grant from the People’s Postcode Trust, will work to improve access to quality work experience and careers advice across England.
The pioneering group is made up of young people aged of 16 – 25 who will be constructing toolkits for young people and employers across the UK with support from The Careers & Enterprise Company. These toolkits will be distributed amongst Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and young people’s hubs outlining what quality work experience looks like and how to make it accessible to young people.
The project has been established following the Youth Select Committee’s inquiry into access to work experience last year. The committee of young people found there were a multitude of inequalities that affected young people’s access to good quality work experience across the UK. It also concluded young people from a rural area or from a low socio-economic background are amongst those that were facing a disproportionate lack of access. Employers from SMEs also expressed how they are willing to give good quality work experience but find that they are lacking the comprehension to construct an accessible environment to support all young people.
Commenting on the action group, Amanda Chetwynd-Cowieson, Chair of the British Youth Council, said: “Last year the Youth Select Committee found unacceptable levels of inequality were affecting young people’s access to good quality work experience across the UK.
“The Work Experience Action Group will now work to develop a toolkit which will enable more employers to not only make their work experience placements more accessible but will also ensure they can provide high quality opportunities.”
Claudia Harris, CEO of The Careers & Enterprise Company, who are supporting the project said: “The Youth Select Committee held an impressive inquiry into work experience last year and it’s great that this truly youth-led initiative has followed as a result.
“It will enable many more young people across the country to have greater exposure to their local employers which is crucial in our fast-changing world of work. It’s brilliant to see young people taking the lead in shaping careers support. We look forward to working closely with them throughout the process.”
Creating Work Experience hubs for 11-18 year olds was one of the top issues in the UK Youth Parliament’s 2017 Make Your Mark ballot. The ballot saw almost 950,000 young people vote on issues that mattered most to them.
The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee formally begins a new inquiry into the UK’s knife crime epidemic. The pioneering Committee is calling for evidence from a wide range of contributors, including young people, charities, and businesses.
The announcement comes following a UK-wide ballot of young people 1.1 million aged 11 to 18 in which young people
But research from the House of Commons library has given even greater cause for concern on the spread of the epidemic, as it revealed that knife crime, particularly where it affects young people, has been a ‘persistent and growing concern’ for successive governments.
Putting a stop to the ever-growing scourge of knife crime is fast becoming a national priority, with the Government making several announcements in recent months, including the introduction of knife crime prevention orders and investment in early intervention projects.
Now in its eighth year, the Youth Select Committee is a British Youth Council initiative, supported by the House of Commons. The eleven committee members are aged 15-17 and include Members of the UK Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors, and representatives from each of the devolved nations.
This year, the committee will look at issues including:
- Is the Government strategy doing enough to effectively combat knife crime?
- Are there trends in
the statisticsof who is perpetrating and who are the victims of knife crime?
- How is knife crime
Bailey-Lee Robb, a Member of the Youth Select Committee from Fife, Scotland said: “Young people have made it very clear that knife crime continues to be a significant concern.
“The Youth Select Committee want to hear from a whole range of people on this issue so we can find solutions that will have a demonstrable impact of the lives of young people.”
Rt. Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons said: “Every year the Youth Select Committee play a vital role in raising awareness about the issues affecting young people across the country.
“This year the Committee’s determination to tackle the epidemic of knife crime is something that I wholly support. I will be following this pioneering Committee as they investigate the scourge of knife crime and I eagerly anticipate their report.”
The Youth Select Committee call for evidence closes on Friday 7th June 2019 and the Committee will hold oral evidence sessions in the House of Commons in July.
The British Youth Council has been saddened by recent protests and discourse in the media suggesting relationships and sex education shouldn’t be inclusive of LGBT+ people. The British Youth Council have a long-standing belief that all schools should provide education to young people that is inclusive of the LGBT+ community.
We welcome the Government’s commitment to a LGBT-inclusive curriculum in both primary and secondary schools. It should be recognised that education which precludes LGBT+ identities puts young people up and down the country at higher risk of mental and physical harm.
LGBT+ students still require the necessary support other students are afforded, disregarding some young people puts them at risk unnecessarily. We call on the government and Department of Education to make LGBT+ inclusive education mandatory in all schools without exception, and we call on Ofsted to make sure homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying is being treated seriously by schools across the UK.
Responding to recent reports in the media, Lewis Addlington-Lee, Deputy Chair of the British Youth Council said: “We believe in defending, promoting, and advocating for the rights of the LGBT+ Community in the UK and internationally.
“It’s upsetting to hear about the sustained opposition from a minority but we must recognise the importance of a curriculum which is inclusive. All schools across the country should be teaching relationship and sex education in a way which is inclusive of the LGBT+ community without exception.
“Children should be able to learn about all types of identities and relationships from a young age so this institutionalised discrimination can be brought to an end.”
The British Youth Council’s Youth Select Committee has received an official response from the UK Government on work experience. The response follows an extensive investigation into the barriers faced by young people across the country in accessing quality work experience. The Government have acknowledged its role in ‘preparing students for adult life’ and the importance of work experience but make no concrete commitments to address the concerns highlighted by the committee.
The British Youth Council were disappointed to learn that the response from the Department for Education contained ambiguous answers to many of the recommendations made by the Youth Select Committee. In November 2018, the committee ruled that the Government needed to take action on ‘unequal’ work experience opportunities.
Within the response, which answers each of the recommendations made by the committee, the Government state ‘every pupil should have first-hand experiences of the workplace’. However, the Government refused to make a firm commitment to commission further research on the quality work experience, stating they would only ‘look carefully’ at how they can improve their evidence base.
The Government also recognise more can be done to build on the work so far to encourage businesses of all sizes and across all sectors to offer young people experiences of the workplace. Despite this, the Government give the committee no assurances on how this will be improved.
The committee did welcome the Government’s plan to undertake further work to understand whether there is value in dedicating a section of the National Careers Service website to work experience. We were also pleased to hear the Government intend to involve young people in the design and testing of any new resources and services.
Claudia Quinn, Chair of the Youth Select Committee, from Liverpool said: “The Youth Select Committee were disappointed to learn that the Government accept their role in preparing students for adult life and the importance of work experience but make no concrete commitments to address the concerns highlighted by the committee’s extensive inquiry.
“The Government need to take steps to address the patchy, unequal nature of young people’s access to work experience and this response doesn’t take into account the very real concerns we’ve brought to their attention.
“We were, however, pleased with the Government’s commitment to involve young people in the design and testing of any National Careers Services’ new resources and services. Young people should be consulted on things that impact them and we’re excited to hear the Government have acknowledged this.”
The Youth Select Committee, who were aged 13-18, included Members of the Youth Parliament, Youth Councillors, a Youth Mayor and representatives from each of the devolved nations. This year’s committee will examine different aspects of the widely reported knife crime epidemic.
On the 29th January, we had the privilege to visit City Hall and participate in the Countering Violent Extremism programme, representing young people from the London Faith Forum.
A few months previously we took part in a focus group led by the ICIC at Westminster Youth Council; they asked us about our opinions in regards to the recent rise in extremism, both Islamic, as is shown is the media, and more pressingly the growth of the far-right. We had a fascinating discussion and so did they, because they selected two of us to represent young people at the programme.
At the event, we had to opportunity to discuss our opinions about how London could better respond to threats and increase inclusivity and awareness, ensuring target groups were not isolated or felt persecuted, and how to implement such reforms. All of these were responses to recent concerns in the city.
We got to talk to a board of experts in government, for instance Nick Bowes, Mayoral Director of Policy, and the London Mayor him self, Sadiq Khan. He listened to our recommendations and was a fantastic listener. It was an amazing experience, and great to have gotten it through Westminster Youth Council.
However, we did not just get to network with a group of accomplished, intelligent people; we also got to contribute ideas to how to change London’s approach to tackling violent extremism (as the programme would suggest), for instance proposing reforms in the Prevent scheme, and promoting diversity within the London curriculum.
I cannot thank the Youth Council enough for giving me this opportunity and the experience it has granted me, specifically Shofa Miah, Leader of Youth Council, and Aby Murray, our fantastic youth participation worker.