Ludlow making a mark in Youth Parliament – guest post by Shropshire MYP Laura Sheldon

Ahead of the national youth parliament in the House of Commons on 14 November, Shropshire MYP Laura Sheldon writes a guest post on the issues of most concern to young people in Ludlow and Shropshire.

After being elected as a Member of Youth Parliament (MYP) in February 2013, it has become very clear to me how important it is for young people to have their say on issues that affect them, locally, regionally and nationally, and it is my job to provide a platform for those opinions to be heard.

Laura_Sheldon_interviewed_by_Gareth_Owen_Feb_2014Laura being interviewed by ITV’s Gareth Owen

There are 4 elected representatives for Shropshire – Rhys Hart MYP, Fenwick Jeffery Deputy MYP, Georgia Kelly Deputy MYP, and of course me, Laura Sheldon MYP. Although I am an MYP for Shropshire, I primarily represent the South, as I live in Ludlow, and Shrewsbury town, on account of my study at Shrewsbury Sixth Form College. I left Ludlow School in July, but feel it is my duty to stand by my original core constituents and keep in contact with the secondary school to ensure pupils are still being listened to.

One of the hardest challenges I have had to face as an MYP is the constant assumption that young people don’t want to get involved in politics. The desire is there. All that young people want and need is to be engaged and treated like they are valued in the political system. I see a simple political education as fundamental, yet we still are not taught the basics of ideologies or the differences between each of the main parties in secondary school, meaning that when the majority of young people reach the age of eligibility to vote, they haven’t registered, they don’t realise how important their vote is, and they don’t have a clue who they want to vote for. This needs to change. The UK Youth Parliament (UKYP) is trying to achieve this by involving young people in matters that they actually care about, instead of bombarding them with jargon and acronyms and pictures of strangers in suits.

We had from the beginning of September until October 10th to consult as many young people as possible, aged 11-18, on what issues they wanted debating by us in the House of Commons, as part of the UKYP Make Your Mark campaign. This year, Shropshire Youth Parliament managed to collect votes from over 7,000 young people, with a turnout of approximately 25% – that is incredible, and 2,000 votes up from last year!

The top issues voted for in Ludlow were:

  1. Everyone should be paid at least the Living Wage of £7.65 per hour. Anyone who works, regardless of age, should have a decent standard of living.
  2. Bring back exam resits in Maths and English in English schools, and help us achieve our potential.
  3. Work Experience. We should have the chance to do at least a week’s placement, at a place of our choosing. We should have access to professionals who inspire us.
  4. A curriculum to prepare us for life. Schools should cover topics like finance, sex and relationship education, and politics.
  5. Mental health services should be improved with our help. We should all learn about common mental health issues at school and negative stereotypes should be challenged.

The top issues voted for in Shropshire were:

  1. Everyone should be paid at least the Living Wage
  2. Bring back exam resits in Maths and English.
  3. Work Experience.
  4. A curriculum to prepare us for life.
  5. Mental health services should be improved with our help.

The top issues voted for in the UK were:

  1. Votes at 16. Give 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in elections and referendums.
  2. Everyone should be paid at least the Living Wage.
  3. Mental health services should be improved with our help.
  4. Work Experience.
  5. Bring back exam resits in Maths and English.

As you can see it is clear which issues are the most important – the likes of euthanasia, involvement in communities and law-making are nowhere to be seen. It is also significant to note how similar the results were from Ludlow to the whole of Shropshire.

I will be going to the House of Commons on 14 November to debate the UK’s most popular topics, before voting on which two I believe are the most important – the two most voted for topics will become the UKYP’s national campaigns for 2015. If there are any arguments you would like me to make in the chamber, regarding any of the motions, please do not hesitate to contact me at laurajaynesheldon@gmail.com and I will try my best to get those opinions heard by John Bercow and the rest of the House.

Finally, I would like to thank the Ludlow councillors for taking such an interest in the views of young people, and Ludlow School for being so enthusiastic and supporting me throughout the campaign. I will write about the outcome of the House of Commons debate later next month.