This week I went to Slough’s ‘Youth Question Time’ event, to hear young people from across the Borough put their concerns to adults in positions of power.
As the Blagrave Trust funds youth organisations in Slough, I was keen to attend to hear from young people what issues matter to them locally.
The event helped me think about the importance of the link between local and national policy. Issues that affect young people’s daily lives – in their ‘local’ sphere – will have national roots. The slow pace of change is incredibly frustrating for young people who want to see change.
The question time event featured a great panel made up of local politicians, a head teacher, a news editor and a young people’s mental health specialist, all looking rather nervous about what young people might ask them.
Questions and comments from young people were insightful, ranging from concerns about how local young people with mental health problems are cared for, to what more can be done to support young carers in Slough.
But the debate really got off the ground when a young person asked why their school’s budget was being cut. He was told by a local Councillor that we’re living in post-recession and post Brexit Britain and, after all, “Money doesn’t buy education”. This caused shockwaves in the room full of young people who go to school in the shadow of Eton College and can see that the opposite is all too often true. One young person said “All you see is the figures, we see the harsh reality”.
She pointed out that Year 10s in her school are not able to make the options choices they want because of a teacher shortage and that she has had a procession of supply teachers as the school can’t recruit. And, after all, “we didn’t vote for Brexit”.
Putting forward her view from experience, this student made a powerful contribution to the debate but the pat response she received was merely that decisions about schools funding are made on a national level. Young people and outh organisations in Slough will now push local politicians to raise young people’s views in Parliament and we will watch this space for feedback from local party officials.
At the Blagrave trust, we are passionate about ensuring young people have the chance to share their experience in important debates both nationally and locally. We believe influencing at both levels is essential to ensure we respond to young people’s concerns and we are supporting organisations promoting young people’s voices both in Slough, and on the national stage.
TH September 2017