As you all know, the Education Strategy has been published and we are encouraging feedback from all schools, partners, parents and young people. I met the Youth Council on Thursday evening, who also included a couple of Youth MPSs, to share with them the ambitions of the Education Strategy, essentially to listen and respond to questions and reflections from our young leaders. Over the last 18 months I have met young people at various engagement meetings and sessions, including the Youth Council, shout out days, Youth Summit, as well as in schools as reference groups; they remain the toughest gig; they arrived at the consultation session focused and clear on the topics and themes they wanted to raise with me.
The members of the Youth Council focused immediately on the importance of social inclusion and recognising the value of difference. They felt that this aspect of inclusion needed to be strongly represented in the strategy, with a focus on improving the terms on which individuals and groups, improve the ability, opportunity and dignity of those disadvantaged on the basis of their identity. This was related strongly to curriculum and reference to the teaching of PSHE and RSE in schools, where young people felt that it was not integrated or represented strongly enough. Curriculum and relevance was also a strong theme, with young people stating clearly that although exam boards had a way to come still, decolonising the curriculum at KS2 and 3 required more attention, to ensure it was appropriate and contemporary.
The concept of the Opportunity Centres (OC) was well supported by young people, with the significance of not losing sight of food poverty where Opportunity Centres should make provision to include feeding young people as well as nourishing further opportunities beyond the school day. Furthermore, members of the Youth Council strongly felt that promoting the cultural entitlement was crucial, not just through the discrete curriculum, but linked to the pledge, bringing to life the opportunities to visit art galleries, have free access to exhibitions, museums and local places such as the Roundhouse. The challenge provided was how do these opportunities get promoted beyond the school itself and publicised to young people and families in their local communities? There was also the request that Opportunity Centres promoted and provided dedicated spaces to be creative, to collaborate in a space together through dance, art and music; currently these spaces are not available for our young people, this came on the back of the conversation recognising the value of a safe place to study, whilst acknowledging there needed to be quality alternatives to the limitations for young people in finding a quiet place at home.
Finally, when talking about post 16, especially advice and guidance, the members of the Youth Council strongly fed back that social media needed to be used more effectively to reach young people-I left the meeting with the advice echoing in my ears- ‘You need to get on Tik Tok Jon’.