On Friday 18th October 2019 we published our “Growing a stronger youth council” report. This is the Introduction from our report.
We think that our youth councillors are remarkable.
We’ve had the great honour of hearing our young people find their voices, watching them grow in confidence, being challenged by their questions, humbled by their generosity and inspired by their enthusiasm. The simple, honest concern that they show for one another, and the openness with which they feel able to speak, are a reminder to us every day of what local democracy is really about.
We feel lucky to have spent time in their company.
But what we have learned over the past year is that our young citizens don’t want to be remarkable. They want democracy to be a normal part of growing up, for every young person. They want others to have the same opportunities that they have benefitted from. And they want to help make that happen.
Children and young people have told us that we need to create steps along the way, so that they can begin to learn and can grow their understanding in a way they feel comfortable with.
We have realised that the youth council is a key stage on that journey towards understanding local democracy and being involved in civic life.
We meet young people at a formative time in their lives, when they can begin to speak out and can speak up for others. We can help them by making sure they have the support, skills, confidence and understanding that they need to do this.
Our young people want to be connected. We can help them by valuing and nurturing the relationships that we grow.
Our youth councillors have told us clearly that they value having a relationship with ward councillors. This helps to improve understanding and to ensure that young people’s voices are listened to and can have impact in their communities.
Our schools have an essential role. They are the safe spaces where our young people feel most able to get involved. We need to grow the confidence of teachers (along with officers and parents) so that we can help our young people to have the positive experiences that they want, in the way that they want.
We’ve learned that we also need to think about the steps before and after being a youth councillor. With the help of our active primary schools, supportive partners and friends at the University of Huddersfield, we can join the dots of that journey.
By giving young people a democratic education and by enabling them to feel safe to talk and to act together, we are growing the active citizens of the future.
This really matters for our local democracy. And it matters to our young citizens.