Getting youth voices heard by Parliament

The Government needs to understand a streamlined approach to get young people back on track will not work.

On Wednesday 24th March 2021, Bethan (17), Alicia (18), and I were invited, on behalf of NCB, to provide evidence to the House of Commons Education Committee, all about the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on young people’s education; including how the pandemic has possibly impacted young people’s mental health, the importance of the physical lessons such as PE, Dance and Music, that young people possibly once took for granted. The committee also questioned how going back to school has been for us and our peers, and what the Government can further do to support young people further in terms of making sure they are not falling behind drastically.

Their responses were very clear and indicative that they wanted to hear the views of young people, directly, and that is what I particularly enjoyed: that they were willing to listen and then take away what they can, and the pandemic has truly proved the importance of how influential our voices as young people can be if they are being heard by the relevant ears, such as the ones that sit as members of the Education committee. I was really pleased that the idea of summer term catch-up sessions was brought up as a topic for discussion, I had to champion that young people have already had such a turbulent time in the last year, and for them to need to sacrifice any more precious time, would be more detrimental than positive, in terms of their education. Should the Government propose summer sessions, they need to be optional, for those young people that would benefit, rather than be it a compulsory thing for all young people, making it a burden, and most definitely not a thing that will prove to be useful for the young person.

It was good to clarify that young people’s mental health and wellbeing should be put first, before any conversation begins in relation to the young person’s curriculum, and how much they have missed. A phrase that I’ve heard is that everyone is in the same boat, no, everyone is in the same ocean, yet in different boats – some people have yachts and some a raft made of plastic bottles – the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted everyone differently, and a streamlined approach to getting young people back on track in terms of their education will not work, as some young people had every access to a device at home, therefore could complete their work with ease, and some suffered to keep a stable internet connection as their teacher taught.

Watch the Education Committee session

I hope that the input that me, Bethan and Alicia gave, will truly be included and actually be taken on board as the Government continue to lead us further out of restrictions, allowing young people to restore human contact and enjoy everything that once was a daily, taken-for-granted thing, be it a hug or simply to be close to person, without the worry of COVID-19. The Government needs to recognise that some young people have thrived, and some young people have struggled, and that’s why guidance should reflect that.

Dmitrijs Meiksans (15)