Making politics more representative starts with education

A first-of-a-kind project aims to empower young people with the knowledge and skills to make change happen locally and nationally

A first-of-a-kind project aims to empower young people with the knowledge and skills to make change happen locally and nationally

27 Feb 2024, 17:00

‘Once a teacher, always a teacher,’ as the saying goes. So it will come as no surprise that I wanted to combine my love of education and politics. Education has always had the power to open up new opportunities and broaden horizons, and it’s needed now more than ever.

I want our young people to know they can make a difference, that their ideas matter and that they have an opportunity to shape a fairer future. The young people of Hull are amazing; they care deeply about their communities and their people, and a new project in collaboration with Debra Gray MBE, the CEO and principal of Hull College, and Professor Stephen Hardy, the dean of the business, law and politics school at the University of Hull will help them transform that passion into action.

Barriers to representation

As educators and champions for our community, we find ourselves deeply troubled by the increasing disengagement of young people from politics, especially in regions like ours with a historical trend of low voter turnout. Despite seeing the enthusiasm and insightful perspectives of students on political issues in our classrooms, schools and colleges, the actual political participation of young people in local and national politics remains stubbornly low as underscored in the 2023 Turnout at elections report. Hull constituencies ranked among the lowest in the country, highlighting the urgent need to address these challenges head-on.

The stark truth is that politics can feel remote, unimportant and inaccessible to young people, particularly those from deprived areas. Many lack awareness of the vast career opportunities in politics that extend beyond political party participation or how politics can be used as a powerful tool to change our country for the better.

Higher political engagement strengthens our democracy, builds self-confidence and empowers people to make a difference in their community. This is what the ‘Future Parliament’ programme seeks to unleash.

Our aim is to shatter the preconception that a future Prime Minister or permanent secretary cannot emerge from somewhere like Hull. This initiative is not just about educating young minds; it’s a true partnership between the college and the local university to create a pathway for students to fulfill their potential. It’s also about giving students at the university the opportunity to mentor future students and deepen their knowledge of politics.

The disproportionate representation of Eton-educated individuals in British politics is evidence that too often it’s still about who you know, not what you know. Future Parliament is also a response to this – an attempt to level the playing field and create a more inclusive and equitable political landscape.

Three days to change the world

Over three full days, the program will immerse participants in various areas of British politics to foster a deeper understanding of national and local government. On day one, we will delve into national politics, demystifying the role of an MP, understanding how an MP’s office works and the various roles an MP has within parliament, the community, and their own political party. We’ll look at government and the opposition, how legislation is made and explore the huge variety of non-party political jobs available within Parliament.

Day two will centre on local government, featuring in-depth discussions with key figures such as Matt Jukes, CEO of Hull City Council, and local council party leaders. Understanding the roles of councillors and unelected officials is crucial for empowering young individuals to navigate the intricacies of local government successfully to shape what happens day to day in their area.

The final day will be dedicated to equipping participants with essential media training and oratory skills. The culmination will be each student delivering a five-minute speech at the University of Hull, showcasing their passion for a chosen policy area and arguing for the changes they want to see to build a better future.

Our overarching goal is simple: by the conclusion of these three days, we want participants to feel significantly more engaged with politics, have a greater understanding of how it all works and be confident in pursuing a career in this field.

A model for every constituency

We hope that this initiative will not merely be a local project but will serve as a template for replication across England. We would love to see a network of such programs, fostering political engagement and empowering young individuals from all backgrounds to actively participate in shaping the political landscape of their communities.

We invite young people aged 16 to 19 who live in Hull West and Hessle to apply for this experience, available at https://bit.ly/3Uqi6OD. Applications will close on March 1st, with the program scheduled for 3 to 5 April at various locations in Hull. There are no barriers to participation as transport costs will be covered and lunch will be provided.

Both Hull College and the University of Hull are proud of the civic role they have in our community and their role in educating young people. We all firmly believe that Parliament should reflect the society it represents and through initiatives such as Future Parliament we strive to empower the leaders of tomorrow and inspire positive change within our community.

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