Our Voices Heard: young people’s political education

Mat Mathias shares news of a project to allow young people to develop a better model of political education

Time flies when you are having fun, equally so when working to change the very face of politics in Wales. It has been almost a year since we published our report Missing Voices. The project set out to talk to as many people in the country as possible on their thoughts about politics in Wales and how it could be improved.


Even the most positive, wide eyed and bushy tailed amongst you out there would not be surprised that there was a considerable amount of negativity and confusion about the subject.


Yes, there was positivity, a lot of it talked about hope; a hope that things could improve.


However, we mainly found that there was a lack of basic knowledge on what politics actually is, what politicians do and how our country is governed. Without understanding the basic building blocks of how society works how can we participate in it fully?


Throughout the Missing Voices project it became obvious that political education had to be a priority.


That’s why it’s our focus for the next few months, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  


Just last week the Assembly voted to move forward on legislating for Votes at 16 for Assembly elections. A separate piece of legislation on Votes at 16 for local elections will be tabled early next year.


These changes create the conditions for a revolution in our democracy; the chance for young people to have their say for the first time.


Improved political education will only make these changes better. Young people will not only have the right to vote, but will also be equipped with more knowledge and confidence than we ever had when voting for the first time.


Our aim with ‘Our Voices Heard’ is to work towards the creation of a new curriculum that will give every child between the ages of 11-16 a solid understanding of how politics affects their daily lives and how they can influence it. We have to ensure that the next generation sees politics as more. More than an ‘X’, more than a 6 week election period, more than slogans, soundbites and shouting.  


Over the next few months we, working with our partners at Co-Production Wales, will be heading to ten schools in places like Fishguard in the west, Old Colwyn in the north, Pontypool in the east and seven other places in between. We’ll be working alongside year 9 pupils finding out their suggestions for how political education in Wales can be improved.


Once collected and collated, the top ideas from each school will then be considered by a panel involving teachers and other experts in the field of education as well as, of course, pupils.These final recommendations on better political education in Wales will be put to Welsh Government.


These recommendations on what a better model of political education should look like are going to be put forward by the people who will benefit most from them. This is not a project that makes decisions for our young people or makes recommendations on things that will be done to them. ‘Our Voices Heard’ will do what it says on the tin and make young people the drivers of policy changes that directly affect their future.


Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash


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Mat Mathias is Campaigns and Projects Officer at ERS Cymru

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