I believe that young people’s involvement in democracy, and their learning about the way in which our society works, is key for them to be active citizens.
It helps them be aware of what is happening in the world around them. I received public legal education during secondary school and, whilst now being in University, I understand the even greater need and importance of this education. Without receiving it, I would definitely not be as informed as I am now about the way in which our political and legal systems work.
Last year, I attended the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour party national conferences on the behalf of Young Citizens and spoke at the fringe meetings of the National Education Union. It was great to see so many young people participating in all of these party conferences, all with an interest in politics and the law. Attending was a truly valuable experience. I was able to see how the party conferences operate and also be able to be active in our democracy. It was a great opportunity to be able to attend all three of the major party conferences.
In addition to attending, I was involved in speaking on a panel at fringe meetings. These meetings are held to advocate a particular opinion on a certain topic. They allow debate on that topic whilst gaining the views of the audience and opinions from speakers on the panel. I was speaking at fringe meetings that were concerned about testing students in schools, where the current processes of testing were explored. I was on the panel to give a young person’s viewpoint but to also represent Young Citizens’ view on the need for teachers to deliver citizenship education to their students.
In my opinion, when pressures are placed on schools to focus on narrow areas of the curriculum, such as English and Maths, teachers are not able to accommodate the delivery of a wider curriculum that includes subjects such as Citizenship. Young people then do not learn about the society in which they live; how they can participate in the democracy of the United Kingdom; and how the law operates and affects them. These are just a few topics but are some of the crucial ones that young people need to be educated about in order to be able to participate in society. A year on from these discussions and in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, I believe that a curriculum that promotes education for democratic engagement and the rule of law remains critical for children and young people.
Advocating the importance of high quality, effective public legal education (PLE) to the wider public is something that is a priority to me and Young Citizens. This includes citizenship education and the need to educate young people on how to be active citizens.
It was an honour to represent Young Citizens at these conferences last year. I was able to advocate my opinions on important educational issues, and to develop personally by means of hearing different opinions to my own. I could improve my personal communication skills to a range of different audiences. Most importantly, it was also a great opportunity to spread the news about the need for PLE, and the great work that Young Citizens carries out which has major benefits for all of the students and teachers who are involved.
The party conferences are an informative experience where you can see different opinions on topics and hear some amazing debates and speeches! With them being moved online this year – perhaps now presents a fabulous chance to get involved in some capacity?
Whether you decide to get involved in democratic events or simply engage with the Citizenship curriculum, it is going to help shape your life and the future of others.
Jack is a final year law student, as well as a Young Citizens Ambassador. Keep in touch with Jack via his Twitter handle: @jackfelvus