Local young people meet to talk politics

Forest of Dean District Council has hosted the first meeting of the Forest Youth Council which took place on Monday 19 November at council offices in Coleford.

The group was set up by Cllr Tim Gwilliam to engage with local young people with an aim to bridge what is often called ‘the voting gap’.

Pupils and students from Hartpury College, Dean Academy, Wyedean School and Five Acres High School came along to talk about where they would like to see themselves in 12 years’ time and share with local councillors the things they would change about life in the future in the Forest of Dean.

The most popular themes of discussion raised by the young people were around the amount of shops and services, jobs and business opportunities along with transport options such as cycle routes and the condition of local roads.

Also speaking on the day was Julian Grail, leader of the Forest Economic Partnership Education and Skills Sub Group who highlighted all the different types of businesses based in the Forest of Dean, and the different skills which are needed, particularly in the area of engineering.

Cllr Tim Gwilliam, Leader of Forest of Dean District Council said, “We had a great bunch of young representatives come along to our first Youth Council meeting and I’m very grateful for the time and input they all gave to the discussion.

“It was extremely useful to learn about the concerns and plans for young people and how schools and businesses are working together to make work experience more accessible. Rather just a few set weeks a year, some schools now allow work experience to be arranged at any point during the year giving more young people the opportunity to get a placement in their chose field and gain experience in their area of interest.

“This was worthwhile meeting which I hope will be just the start of some meaningful and useful conversations.”

Rebecca Smith, Head of History and Student Voice at Five Acres High School said, “It was very interesting to be part of the debate and discussion about what our young people in the community believe to be important, it was great to see young people having their views and opinions represented and being listened to as part of a democratic process.”

Hannah Searle, Sixth Form Support Mentor at Wyedean School and Sixth Form Centre said, “The students gave clear and thoughtful answers to questions about changes they would like to see in the local area and their hopes for the future. It was great to see them engaging with members of the council and having a positive two-way conversation.”

Zac Arnold, a student from Wyedean Sixth Form & Youth Officer for Bristol and Glow Area Unite Community said, “I attended the first meeting and it was a start in building bridges between young people and local government which is even more necessary now due to heightening tensions between some councils and young people. I made a point of stressing how, ultimately, all issues are irrelevant unless we can first build strong, respectful and productive relationships between authorities and young people. I look forward to the next meeting."

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