My Country My Vote project by Politics staff and local politicians to ensure the voters of tomorrow play their full part in local democracy
POLITICS lecturers and students at the University of Huddersfield have played a leading role in the development of an exciting project helping to make sure that the voters of tomorrow are ready and able to play their full part in local democracy.
Some of the largest schools in the Kirklees council area – which includes Huddersfield and several other West Yorkshire towns – have participated in a project named My Country My Vote, developed by the University’s politics department in tandem with the local authority’s Heritage and Education Team and Kirklees Youth Council.
My Country My Vote aimed to look at the development of democracy and highlight the importance of the democratic process in fostering debate and creating change. It sought to develop a sense of citizenship among young people and encourage them to sign on to the electoral role.
A key part of the project has been a series of political campaigns run by pupils at the schools – Batley Girls High School, Westborough High School in Dewsbury and Huddersfield’s Moor End Academy – on a range of issues including improving participation in higher education, funding for youth services, raising the national minimum wage, euthanasia rights and a 16-19 bursary fund (England).
More schools and young people next year
The My Country My Vote project involved a conference hosted on the University of Huddersfield campus, including seminars which showed the young people why they should get involved in local politics. They were then encouraged to create their own political groups and actively campaign within their schools on a range of issues that affect young people. University of Huddersfield lecturers Dr Andy Mycock and Dr Pete Woodcock provided keynote lectures on themes of youth citizenship and political participation, and local MP Jason McCartney and the Parliamentary Education Service also contributed to the event.
This introductory session was followed by a series of workshops held by politics students from the University who visited the three schools and held training sessions on how to pupils could conduct effective campaigns. The students belong to the Reform group that has successfully contested a number of University of Huddersfield Students’ Union elections and led a series of campaigns and charity events on campus. This meant that when they visited the schools they could draw on their own experiences of successful campaigning.
Their presentations covered a range of issues, including how to design a campaign and promote key messages in innovative ways, including the use of logos, posters and social media. Two of the students – Steve Howe and Stephanie Darlington (pictured left) – have provided detailed account of the project in a special blog.
After receiving guidance from University of Huddersfield lecturers and students, the three schools held elections in order to select the winning campaigns. The groups who came top of the poll were invited to the House of Commons, where local MPs Barry Sheerman, Jason McCartney and Simon Reevell, who represent the Kirklees constituencies and have been enthusiastic supporters of My Country My Vote, hosted an exciting day of debate.
Dr Mycock – who is Reader in Politics at the University – is delighted by the success of the project. “It is a strong example of the civic role of the university and the potential of our students as educators and researchers,” he said, “we hope to expand the programme and involve more schools and young people next year”.
- A website has been set-up that provides further information about the project - http://mycountrymyvote.wordpress.com/