ERS Cymru call for overhaul of citizenship education, as young people demand voices are heard

Posted on the 27th November 2018

  • For immediate release, Tuesday 27th November 2018
  • ERS Cymru Director Jess Blair is available for interview. Contact: 07773555390 or [email protected]
  • Recommendations on how to improve political education have been handed to the Education Secretary, Kirsty Williams AM. For more information see contact details above.
  • Embargoed copies of the recommendations available here: in English and in Welsh

Young people from across Wales have demanded changes to how they are taught about politics at school, with Electoral Reform Society (ERS) Cymru publishing their calls on Tuesday (27th). 

Nearly 200 young people were asked their views on political education as part of the ‘Our Voices’ project [1] coordinated by ERS Cymru.

It comes at a crucial time for young people in Wales, with 16 and 17-year-olds set to be given the right to vote in Assembly and local elections, alongside ongoing reform of the curriculum [2].

A final list of seven proposals are being handed to Kirsty Williams AM, Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Education, at an event in Cardiff on Tuesday.

Following engagement with pupils across Wales [3], ERS Cymru distilled their calls into seven recommendations, which are:

  1. Statutory lessons on the basics of our democracy
  2. A independent ‘toolbox’ to help teachers deliver these sessions in an engaging and non-partisan way
  3. The need for time to discuss and debate current affairs in the school day
  4. Closer contact between schools and elected politicians
  5. A national mock election, running at the same time as the Assembly elections, where young people would be able to ‘practice’ voting and discuss their local candidates.
  6. The need for ‘real life’ lessons like paying bills, registering to vote and information on taxes to be taught
  7. An online resource being made available at election time to give better insight into the candidates standing

Commenting on the launch, Jess Blair, ERS Cymru Director said:

“In this time of political flux we should not forget that young people are some of the most important stakeholders.

“The Our Voices Heard project has shown without doubt that there is an appetite for knowing more about politics among young people in Wales.

“The seven recommendations come directly from young people across Wales, the first cohort who will be able to vote at 16 and 17. These suggestions are from the people that know their own education best – and show a need for a stronger structure for political education.

“These recommendations could prove to be a gamechanger to the way young people learn and understand politics, preparing them to be active participants in a democracy that is more participative and vibrant – and in turn improving and energising the political debate across Wales.

“We hope that the Welsh Government seriously consider these suggestions, and put them at the centre of plans to reform our democracy and education system. They are both from and forWales’ young people.”

Education Secretary Kirsty Williams AM said:

“I would like to thank the ERS for the hard work they’ve undertaken in asking the opinions of young people from across Wales to bring together these recommendations.

“It truly is fantastic to see the energy and dedication which has gone into this work, and it is clear that the young people of Wales have a keen interest in being politically aware.

“It is essential that we listen to the opinions and perspectives of our young people so that we can truly understand what matters to them, and to ensure that our next generation of voters are well equipped to undertake their democratic responsibility, creating a future for Wales that we can all be proud of.

“I look forward to the opportunity to discuss the recommendations in greater detail at the event.”

ENDS

Notes to editor

[1] The full ‘Our Voices Heard’ Report can be found here in English and here in Welsh

[2] https://beta.gov.wales/new-school-curriculum

[3] Eleven schools across Wales took part in the Our Voices Heard project, with the schools varied by location, language, school performance and economic indicators.
Recommendations which emerged from those sessions were refined by a panel of experts featuring education professionals, teachers and pupils to leave the final seven proposals.
More information on the Our Voices heard project can be found here:https://www.iwa.wales/click/2018/10/our-voices-heard-young-peoples-political-education/

And here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmbRa0T_jzo

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