By Alaa Fawaz
Recently I attended the UK youth parliament annual House of Commons debate, which was aired on BBC parliament; there I represented the young people of Slough. At the House of Commons we debated on the five top national issues with the highest vote in our Make Your Mark campaign in which over 950,000 young people took part. The top 5 included a Curriculum to prepare us for life, Transport, Work experience hubs for 11-18 year olds, Protect LGBT and Votes at 16. This year was my second opportunity debating. Last year I spoke on transport on how recent legislation requires us to be in education till the age of 18 and the government want us taking part in more out-door activities like sports or volunteering but how can we do so if we are unable to get to these places. This year I spoke in favour of votes at 16 whereby I talked about how 16 years olds are able to pay Income tax and National Insurance and are therefore able to feed into the country economically but we are not able to vote politically. ‘Votes at 16’ and a ‘Curriculum to prepare us for life’ won the debates and are now the UK Youth parliament’s 2018 campaign. Now is the perfect time to have votes at 16 as a campaign where even during my meeting with Slough’s MP Tan Dhesi, he showed his support on votes at 16. November 3rd marked the second reading to pass the bill allowing 16 to 17 year olds to vote but it was sadly not passed as the Conservative party filibustered the debate, meaning that there was no time for a vote. This clearly shows us that there is still work to be done.
As for being a member of the Slough Youth parliament, we are in the process of creating a PSHE network which the lead PSHE teachers in all of Slough secondary schools will be a part of. In the network teachers and two representatives from the Slough Youth Parliament will be a part of a virtual group where teachers can share resources and attend workshops to work towards improving PSHE lessons where we would like it to have the same weighting and value as other academic subjects. Our aim is to create a consistent and similar approach on a curriculum for life across all schools where we hope all pupils will leave school having the knowledge and skills to become active citizens and well-prepared for life after secondary school.
The Slough Youth Parliament are also working on creating a crime survey which the young people would take part in and will allow us to get to the root of why some young people do not feel safe in their own community and so we work towards improving that. We have also been discussing a mental health campaign to go live during children’s mental health week in February.
As much as we are aware that there are many issues to work within Slough, we do still need to take a moment to shed a light on the great things young people are already doing and embrace their talents. Therefore, earlier this month, we held Slough’s second Youth Awards where we had awards for young inspiration, young entrepreneur, young environmentalist and more, in the hope of raising the profile of the youth in a positive way by celebrating their achievements in our showcase. Last year, I hosted the youth awards and awarded young environmentalist to our very own Eco school committee!
To keep updated with our exciting activities and campaigns follow the Slough Youth Parliament and me on twitter: @alaaUKYP and @SY_parliament