YOUNG people from across East Sussex visited the Houses of Parliament for an event celebrating their schools’ participation in the Big Vote 2015.
The Democracy Awards ceremony, held at the Palace of Westminster, saw certificates handed out to 23 of the 35 secondary schools which achieved an award.
(Sussex school staff and students visit Westminster)
The Westminster event was chaired by 16-year-old Youth Cabinet members Orla Phipps and Stephanie Deans, from St Richard’s Catholic College, in Bexhill, and 13-year-old Cabinet member Emma Garrood, from Peacehaven Community College.
(From L-R: Stephanie Deans, Orla Phipps, Nus Ghani MP & Emma Garrood)
Orla said: “These awards are so important – they not only give students and teachers the chance to question leading decision-makers, they also acknowledge that young people have a voice and a chance to change things and achieve anything when they put their mind to it.”
Stephanie said: “It was a real honour to chair such an important event for youth voice and local democracy in East Sussex. It was truly amazing to see so much dedication and support from our local MPs, councillors and senior decision-makers. It shows the true importance of promoting recognition for the effort of young people and schools in the Big Vote election.”
Emma said: “Being the chair of the Q&A was an absolute honour, if a little scary. It felt amazing to be involved and help organise an event to get young people involved in democracy and congratulate schools involvement in our local youth elections. I believe this is extremely important.”
The event also included speeches by Wealden MP Nus Ghani, who hosted the event, and Councillor Nick Bennett, East Sussex County Council lead member for education and inclusion. Both speakers were joined by the council’s assistant director for children’s services, Lou Carter, for a thought-provoking Q&A session before the presentation of awards.
(From L-R: Nus Ghani MP, Cllr. Nick Bennett & Lou Carter)
Cllr Bennett said: “This was a fantastic opportunity to recognise the efforts of schools and young people across East Sussex in taking part in the Big Vote and making it such a success. It was very heartening to see how involved young people are in taking part in the democratic process and how passionate they are about the issues that affect them."
“The young people really enjoyed visiting the Palace of Westminster, which, as the home of Parliament, provided a perfect setting to celebrate democracy.”
The ceremony featured presentations by East Sussex Cabinet members from Gildredge House Free School, The Lindfield School and Ratton School in Eastbourne. The young people talked about their roles and responsibilities and also the power and importance of youth voice. A number of schools also took part in a tour of the Commons following the event.
(L-R: Cabinet members Chloe Ayres & Josh Moreton give their speeches)
Three categories of awards were presented to schools – bronze, silver and gold for schools which had a Big Vote turnout of up to 50 per cent, 50 to 75 per cent and over 75 per cent respectively.