Today I visited Fulston Manor School in Sittingbourne to meet a group of GCSE Citizenship students. I was quite nervous about this, as young people are much more politically aware than when I was at school, and expected (correctly) some tough questioning. However it was a real pleasure to discuss politics with these students, to hear their questions, to ask some myself, and to listen to their views and concerns.
The main issues raised were mostly local – how there is nothing to do in Sittingbourne, freedom passes on the buses, how teenagers are viewed with mistrust and suspicion, and how they feel their voices and opinions are ignored or not heard by the Council. They, rightly, feel it takes years for anything to change (such as the ’20-year’ transport plan and the long awaited town centre regeneration plan).
The best quote: all those present said they would vote if they could. When asked why they thought half of adults don’t vote, one bright young man said: ‘Adults don’t vote because they don’t do anything, they never go out, they just like to sit on the sofa and moan!’
Overall, the session was a real joy. I would encourage all parliamentary candidates to visit schools and talk to young people. I found it a real eye-opener and it has given me much food for thought.