In case you weren’t already aware, this week is Parliament week. What’s that, I hear you cry? Well it is a UK-wide programme of events and activities that have been designed to inspire, engage and connect people with parliamentary democracy. This has spurred me on to shamelessly blog about the Citizenship Foundation’s Lawyers in Schools programme – as the Project Officer of said programme.
In short, if you aren’t familiar with the Lawyers in Schools programme we place lawyers in the classroom to work with young people in small groups – facilitating activities on legal topics such as human rights, consumer law, discrimination, youth justice and police powers.
The programme ties in with Parliamentary democracy by helping to educate young people about the law, by developing their skills of questioning and debate, and by getting them to consider how they fit into the legal system. By educating young people about the law in general we are boosting their confidence and empowering them to be able to fully participate in our democratic society.
The first session Learning about the Law asks students to consider at what age they think they should gain certain legal rights and at what age they actually do gain these rights. I am always struck by how passionately students argue their cases. Just last week I listened to a student proclaim that at the age of 16 young people should be given the right to vote so that they can have a say and about the education system – highlighting that by the time they go to university they will have to pay fees that they haven’t had a say about and by the time they do get a say it will be too late to make a difference. Over the years I have also listened intently to students that have raised eyebrows at the fact that they could find themselves a parent before 18 or join the army at 16 yet not get to vote about issues which might affect them such as child benefit or foreign policy.
On the flip side I have heard students strongly argue against the idea of the lowering of the voting age – some even suggesting that it should be raised. Their argument being that they feel they are not mature enough to understand important issues that are contained within political manifestos. Some even state that they suspect if the voting age was lowered young people would simply ask their parents who to vote for.
But I digress… my agenda in this post is not to discuss young people’s views on voting (although these are very interesting), but to flag up how the Lawyers in Schools programme has and how it continues to connect young people with Parliamentary democracy. For a full description of how the programme works, to join our waiting list or to get in touch with the team for any other reason please visit: www.lawyersinschools.org.uk
Oh and for some more thoughts and discussions about voting, why not read the following blog posts: