Parliament Week: Young People's Question Time

Democratic Life skipped trick or treating this week in favour of attending the Hansard Society’s Question Time event for young people, part of Parliament Week. Chaired by Channel 4’s Krishnan Guru-Murthy, the panel featured Chris Bryant MP (Labour), Sam Gyimah MP (Conservative), Caroline Lucas MP (Green) and Jo Swinson MP (Liberal Democrat). More than 200 young people came from schools, colleges and youth groups to put their questions to the panel.

Before the event got under way, Democratic Life asked some young people about citizenship education. Reflecting on their experiences of citizenship and politics classes, Archie from Emmanuel College and Morenike from Richmond College felt teaching should include more on political parties and their ideologies and teachers should ensure politics is relevant to young people’s lives. While Archie, Cormack and James (also from Emmanuel College) were unsure about the subject of citizenship, as they had not been taught it at their school, they were keen on politics. Morenike and Tara, from Haberdashers Aske, felt the government would be wrong if they removed citizenship education as a result of the curriculum review. As Tara said, ‘No other subject covers what is in citizenship, its unique.’

Morenike and Tara

The event got off to a cracking start with the first question to the panel from Helmi, a Democratic Life supporter from Anglo-European School. She wanted to know what the MPs thought about citizenship education potentially being cut from the National Curriculum. Jo Swinson MP was the first to answer, saying that the Government is keen to give schools more choice, but in her opinion citizenship education is ‘absolutely essential’. When Sam Gyimah MP said that the Government wants to emphasise rigourous subjects that will help young people get employed later in life, Helmi replied that politicians can’t expect young people to vote if they are not taught about politics. Chris Bryant MP responded to Helmi’s question by talking about his experience being a child in Spain under Franco – as a result of that experience he wants every young person to grow up thinking that politics and voting matters.

Other questions from young people were on the topics of tuition fees, the EU referendum vote in the Commons last week, compulsory conscription, what mistakes the MPs have made in office and how to get young people engaged with politics when they aren’t able to vote yet. Many in the audience felt that young people were frustrated at not able to formally take part in the political process and that this frustration was putting them off formal politics all together. All the MPs were quick to say that if young people want to see things change, they can’t disengage from politics, but instead have to become more active.

Emma and Helmi

When we caught up with Helmi after the event she said the MPs didn’t quite answer her question about citizenship education directly. Both she and Emma, also from Anglo-European School, felt that politicians need to take citizenship education seriously as ‘it’s not just about getting young people interested in politics, but also helps them gain skills and experiences that can help young people get into university and get jobs’.

All in all the evening was a great success, with young people speaking out on issues that are important to them and challenging the MPs on the panel to explain some difficult political choices. Many thanks to the Hansard Society and Parliament Week for organising and also to all the young people who kindly answered our questions.

One Response to “Parliament Week: Young People's Question Time”

  1. Helmi says:

    Really enjoyed that evening! I’ve never really experienced anything like it, would love to do it again, must follow up on all the events popping up in the following months. It was all thanks to Democratic Life that I had even heard about Parliament Week, so thank you, thank you, thank you!

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