Thursday, 8 February 2018

Pool Academy, National Citizenship Service and the Representation of the People Act 1918

Tomorrow, I am looking forward to going to Pool Academy, where I will be speaking to staff and students about the school’s new citizenship award. The aim of the award is to help students develop and do something for the community, centred around Pool Academy’s values of aspiration, belonging and respect.

As with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, there will be three levels: bronze, silver and gold. The awards will allow students to develop themselves during their school year. This may lead to academic improvement, but may also help young people develop new skills, for example learning to play a musical instrument, practicing a new sport, overcoming fears or barriers. The list goes on.
 
The awards will also allow students to do something for someone else in the community. This could be something like doing a good deed for a neighbour, or working with an organisation like the Marine Conservation Society doing a beach clean, or working as a volunteer in a residential care home. 
 
This is an excellent concept, and schemes like this can be so beneficial for young people.

A similar scheme is the National Citizenship Service (NCS). Set up back in 2011 as a type of modern day, non-military National Service, NCS is open to all 16-17 year olds in England and aims to bring together young people from all sorts of different backgrounds, helping to break down social barriers and develop self-confidence.

As NCS is a residential course, it gives participants the opportunity to leave home behind for a couple of weeks and immerse themselves in a fresh environment and make new friends. This can be a great way to develop their confidence and independence as it means those taking part are all in the same boat. It doesn’t matter what school they go to or where their parents live and it’s a great way of breaking down social barriers.

I have previously met teams who have made a real contribution to the community. One group had done great work on a play area at the BMX track at Parc Erissey. It is always clear just how beneficial the scheme is, and young people can gain so much from it.

2018 marks 100 years since Parliament passed the 1918 Representation of the People Act, allowing the first women the right to vote. This was a crucial step forwards for our democracy. We must keep people engaged in politics, and ensure that young people understand the importance of exercising their right to vote.

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