Recommendations for growing a stronger youth council

Recommendations for growing a stronger youth council

On Friday 18th October 2019 we published our “Growing a stronger youth council report. These are the 30 recommendations made by our Young Commissioners.

Growing young citizens

Kirklees Council should actively promote the purpose and activities of Kirklees Youth Council, make it clear how everyone can get involved, and share stories about what the benefits of participating are for young people.

Young people aged 11 to 16 in Kirklees should have the opportunity to become youth councillors. In addition to this, younger children and school leavers should have opportunities to participate in local democracy activities, in a way that encourages active citizenship.

Kirklees Youth Council should offer a range of activities that together provide opportunities for young people to progress through stages or levels or participation, growing in skills and confidence along the way. This means including simple, interactive activities for younger participants, core learning activities for youth councillors, and advanced activities for school leavers.

Kirklees Youth Council should provide a standard “Introduction to local democracy” learning package as part of youth councillor recruitment.

Kirklees Youth Council should help young people to gain and demonstrate skills that can be part of their CVs. This should include some form of accreditation or award system. We recommend exploring:

  • offering AQA accreditation for “Understanding how to participate in local democracy”
  • a way for participants to easily log their activity
  • other forms of offering reward or recognition

Kirklees Council should provide clear information on the options for young people to continue participation in local democracy at age 16. This should include opportunities for work, learning and volunteering, along with advice and encouragement for first time voters. This information should be available through any point of contact with young people (not just via Kirklees Youth Council).

Kirklees Youth Council should develop the current Young Commissioner role, to offer an ongoing opportunity for experienced youth councillors after they leave school. This role could include delivering local democracy training, offering support and advice for new youth councillors, and being an advocate for young people in decision-making processes.

Growing safe spaces

Kirklees Council should develop a Democracy friendly schools scheme in Kirklees. We know that young people want activities in schools, where they feel safe and supported. We should give schools all the encouragement and support needed so that they are able to commit to being a Democracy friendly school. Each participating school should have a key contact who takes responsibility for co-ordinating activities.

Kirklees Council should offer an incentive for becoming a Democracy friendly school. This could include recognition and a small financial contribution towards staff time. We feel this would be a good investment given that schools have such a key role to play in engaging our young people in local democracy.

Kirklees Youth Council should provide a menu of activity options for Democracy friendly schools. This should include a core local democracy training offer for high schools (which all youth councillors must complete), activities suitable for primary schools, and ideas for projects to encourage active citizenship.

Kirklees Council should empower schools to enrol or elect young people as youth councillors in a way that suits their school community best. Our aim should be to have a network of youth councillors across all high schools in Kirklees, with representatives also participating in joint activities.

Kirklees Youth Council should provide opportunities for youth councillors to meet young people from other schools. It should be a safe space in which young people can talk openly.

Kirklees Council should have clear, ongoing and co-ordinated communication with schools about local democracy activities. This should include head teachers, key contacts and governors. We should explore easy ways of giving regular updates to school communities, such as providing a presentation slide showing what other young people are doing, which can be shown in school assemblies.

Growing understanding

Kirklees Council and partner organisations should work together to increase access to local democratic education. Schools, colleges and the University of Huddersfield have an important role to play. However, we should also make sure that everyone has the opportunity to learn about local democracy. We should explore options for involving more people, such as:

  • making learning activities available online
  • working with youth organisations such as uniformed groups and sports clubs
  • finding the right person to deliver training in each setting, so that young people hear information from someone who they trust and can relate to

Kirklees Council should develop a local democracy “train the trainer” offer to support key contacts in schools and other organisations in delivering our “Introduction to local democracy” training. This would enable more schools and settings to participate in Kirklees Youth Council, and would help teachers and others to feel more confident talking to students about democracy. We would particularly like to see Newly Qualified Teachers participating. The offer should be open to anyone who works with young people in Kirklees and the training should be available for new participants twice each year.

Kirklees Youth Council should continue to offer local democracy training directly to young people where needed. This should include sessions twice a year open to young people who are not currently in a participating school.

Kirklees Council should share positive stories about how young people contribute to their local area – and encourage other organisations to share their positive stories. Together we should educate adults about what great things young people do.

Growing relationships

Kirklees Council should encourage Kirklees councillors, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Kirklees, and local MPs to meet with members of Kirklees Youth Council and to support their activities.

Kirklees Council should encourage and support collaborative working between councillors and youth councillors in our wards. This could include:

  • developing ideas for community projects with local schools
  • providing an updated version of our “Meet your councillor” pack, to
    support councillors in talking to young people
  • involving youth councillors in organising and running councillor visits and
    surgeries in schools
  • shadowing and mentoring opportunities

Kirklees councillors should work with Kirklees Youth Council to explore sources of funding and support for projects in their ward. Youth councillors would like to be able to access small pots of funding to act on the ideas of young people and their wider community. This could include:

  • councillors contributing funds from their ward budgets
  • providing funding directly to schools to fund community action
  • supporting young people to crowdfund in their community via Growing Great Places
  • accessing other funding schemes (current local examples include “You and Your Community” and “It’s up to you”)

Kirklees Council should encourage schools to work together to support young people to become active citizens in their community. This could include designing or participating in a community activity.

Kirklees Council should keep in contact with the parents of youth councillors to offer information and reassurance. Parents should receive clear information about who will be working with their young people (ideally with photos), what kind of activities they will be participating in, and what the benefits are. Participating schools could share this information. Parents should also be given the option of joining the Kirklees Democracy email list.

Kirklees Youth Council should keep track of direct and indirect contacts, to create a clearer picture of who we are reaching and what the impact of Kirklees Youth Council is. We should encourage all organisations who are involved to share information about their activities (including which community projects youth councillors are involved in, and how many people have participated).

Kirklees Youth Council should create an alumni network which young people can choose to join at age 16. This should enable young people to keep in touch with each other, to find out about the latest opportunities to get involved and to share learning. As a starting point, our former youth councillors should be invited to join this network and encouraged to share ideas for how it will work.

Growing a stronger voice

Kirklees Council should have a designated Cabinet lead for Kirklees Youth Council, so that young people know who they can approach with issues and ideas, and so that there is a clear route for involving youth councillors in policy development.

Kirklees Council should allocate a budget for Kirklees Youth Council and share this information with youth councillors.

Kirklees councillors should look for opportunities to involve young people in Kirklees Council’s decision-making processes where possible. This could include:

  • young people being invited to participate in working groups
  • hearing from youth councillors as a “sounding board”
  • asking young people to give input on relevant issues

Kirklees Council should provide clear processes for involving young people in decision-making, so that this can become a familiar, easily-manageable part of how we work together.

Kirklees Council should provide training and encouragement for council officers, so that they feel confident in working with young people. If we want to enable young people to be more involved in local decision-making, it’s important that we also have more officers who are able to offer support.

Kirklees councillors who have already shown a keen interest in working with Kirklees Youth Council should actively encourage and support their colleagues to get involved.

Growing a stronger youth council