19th April 2021

Llanelli Online News

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Schoolchildren have their say on political engagement issues

SCHOOLCHILDREN in Llanelli have had their say on how political education could be improved.

Pupils at Bryngwyn and Glanymor were visited by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) for an ‘Our Voices Heard’ project on Thursday (Nov 8).

Our Voices Heard aims to improve political education in Wales by working with young people to co-produce ideas and suggestions of how better information about politics can be provided. The project is primarily working in schools across Wales but will also work with a small number of community groups. In each session around 20 young people- specifically year 9 students, the first year to vote at 16 under current plans- will be supported to come up with their own ideas of how political education could be improved.

Ideas developed by young people will then go to a panel of experts, made up of policy leads, people within the education sector, teachers, students and politicians, to be refined and turned into oven ready policy ideas. The final recommendations will then be launched at an event on the 27th November in Cardiff Bay, which will be attended by both the Cabinet Secretary for Education and some of the young people who have taken part in the project, as well as a wider audience. The purpose of the project is to develop recommendations that would be complementary to the political context, specifically the delivery of votes at 16 for Assembly and local elections and also the new curriculum currently being developed by Welsh Government.

Jess Blair, Director of ERS Cymru spoke to Llanelli Online about the project and the issues facing young people in relation to politics today.

Jess said that the aim was to involve people affected by decisions taken by politicians in Wales. Speaking about the views the organisation has received from young people she said: “Young people are not being given the right information about politics. The votes for 16-year-olds is a perfect opportunity to do something. They are aware of issues like Brexit but they are disillusioned by the way the media is communicating with them. There is no information being disseminated on social media channels and these are the preferred platforms for young people.

“We have been asking an open question to the young people. ‘How do you think political education can be improved’?

“Politics has fallen off the radar in schools in the last decade. Political modules in schools have been dropped. We would like to see it being more present and statutory.

“We need a more robust local media outlet. The demographic is massive. 350,000 people missing from the register to vote. The media plays a part in that. People in Wales get their information from UK sources not local sources. I think hyperlocal news is the way forward.

“We are working with the Welsh Assembly Government for better access to information, especially making websites more relevant.

“Young people want to see smart information on the best format that suits them. Young people are best engaged on platforms they are already on like Facebook and Twitter. They want to see content that’s appealing.

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“It is something we have been working on around diversity in politics. It is a bit of a terrible situation at the moment. Politics in Wales is under represented as far as young people and women are concerned. We call the present situation ‘pale, male and stale’. It consists of white males predominantly over 60. Two of Wales’ 22 local authorities have no women at all in their cabinets.

“It is clear from both our online surveys and our focus groups that knowledge, or a lack of it, is playing a big part in contributing to Wales’ ‘missing voices’. As a barrier to voting in the first place, or as a reason for why people who are voting don’t feel they can trust the political system, confusion is playing a detrimental role in our democracy.

“There are things that can be done to address this and these include the improvement of political education, a better level of communication from all forms of government to the public and also relates to the issue of poor news provision in Wales. Ultimately, these problems are significant and are seriously detrimental to the democratic health of Wales. Potential solutions, however difficult, must be explored.”

You can read the reports from ERS Cymru here:

Missing Voices Report

New Voices Report

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