Headlines: October 16th, 2007

Every local council and every school in England have been sent a series of new guides as part of Local Democracy Week, which runs until Sunday. The guides are designed to help increase the number of young people who get involved in politics. The guides include ‘Sending the councillor back to school’ and ‘Getting the most out of your council chamber’, both produced for councillors and councils. Others are ‘Bringing democracy to the classroom’, which has a number of lesson ideas for citizenship teachers and ‘Introducing young people to local politics’, which is for those working with young people outside school.

New research has shown that currently only a quarter of 11 to 16 year-olds believe their local councillor is the best person to go to to try to change something in their community. The study, carried out by Ipsos MORI for the Local Government Association, found that when asked who they respect most outside their family, only one per cent of young people chose politicians. It also shows that just a third of the group have ever met a councillor or an MP but that those who have ‘are more likely to express feelings of political engagement and interest.’

Les Lawrence, who chairs the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said, “’Young people are very involved in single issue politics, but politicians have yet to turn this into a passion for democracy. These guides have been produced to help councils and teachers translate young people’s enthusiasm in political issues into the politicians of tomorrow.”

He said there had been a long term downward trend of young people not getting involved in politics although they clearly had the passion to want to make a difference. “Politicians from all political parties must raise their game to help get young people to understand and get involved in their local area so that democracy can remain fit and healthy,” Councillor Lawrence added.