Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

James Bacon with young debaters at Christ Church CofE Primary School.

Loving to have their say!

Encouraged by the positive feedback from the Don’t Count Yourself Out campaign to encourage young people to engage in the democratic process, James Bacon has given primary school children the chance to engage in debate, and found they weren’t shy of expressing their opinions, as he describes below. He has also gained the support of Hastings’ new mayor as he ventures into new areas to promote the importance of political involvement.

Having worked in a local primary school, it is clear to me that children are more astute than we give them credit for, as well as not being afraid to hold opinions. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to branch out and give young people a platform where they can vocalise and focus their views in a more structured arena. Inspired by a visit to the Arc Helenswood Academy Debate Club, we decided to launch a more informal version at Christ Church CofE Primary School, allowing children to blossom in confidence, practice their public speaking and articulate their arguments clearly and concisely.

Our first week was a major success – the children got stuck into some fantastic debates, ranging from the salaries of football players through to animal rights. I was thoroughly impressed with their maturity and their natural enthusiasm to use their

The debate is on!

voice for the purposes of debate. I am confident that we have some future MPs in the making!

The momentum for more exciting discussions has erupted and we are looking forward to our next session with Year 6. These children are our future leaders, workers, diplomats, teachers and politicians. If we provide them with that voice now, society will continue to reap the benefits by allowing our democracy to flourish for the future generations. We shouldn’t be afraid to empower our youth; we must promote it!

DCYO strikes a chord

We were really pleased with the positivity shown towards our Don’t Count Yourself Out campaign in the run-up to the local elections. Not only were we able to sign up first-time voters to the electoral register, but we also had the delight of discussing issues which worry and affect young people. Although it hasn’t been possible to measure the success of the campaign in enthusing young people to vote in terms of numbers, I am confident that a large number of those previously apathetic young people we spoke to were struck with a moment of revelation on election day and went out and voted. Perhaps I shouldn’t use the word ‘apathetic’ – the problem lies, not with apathy, but with a lack of knowledge about the political parties, a sad state of affairs which politicians and the education system need to address.

As an example of the effect the campaign had, here’s the message I received from Jaz Pook of Parkwood Sixth Form: “It was the first time I was able to vote and I am so glad that I did. Not only did it give me a sense of self-worth due to my vote and therefore my opinion being considered, but it also gave me a sense of pride because I haven’t sat back without having my say. I didn’t know much about voting before Don’t Count Yourself Out came to Parkwood Sixth Form to raise awareness, but I now know so much more because of you and I know that, with my vote, I have made the right decision and stayed true to myself and my beliefs.”

One thing I did pick up on while speaking to a number of students is that the majority are political and very outspoken about the issues which they find important. What politicians need to do is have an open dialogue with our youth to a greater extent. We need to feel listened to and have our issues put at the top of the political agenda. If this isn’t dealt with soon, we will have a problem on our hands, consisting of a large group of young, politically-minded people who are either afraid to express their views or do not feel that votes are worth anything. This isn’t the case, and the more we involve our youth in the community from early on, the greater chance we will have of increasing voter turnout and allowing our democracy to flourish.

New mayor Bruce Dowling supports the campaign.

We are also honoured to have the support of the new Mayor of Hastings, Councillor Bruce Dowling. A big thank you to him for recognising the importance of young people voting and having a say in the decisions which affect them.

We aim to maintain this momentum and work with Hastings Borough Council and various colleges and schools to substantially increase the voter turnout for the 2015 general election. Watch this space!


For more information on Don’t Count Yourself Out and what we do, please visit our Facebook page.

Don’t count yourself out! (previous article).


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Posted 08:51 Wednesday, Jul 2, 2014 In: Campaigns

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