Although much of a councillor’s life is spent in meetings, there is more to it than that and this morning, I spent a really enjoyable hour visiting Collingwood College and talking with some of the pupils about being a local politician.
As part of an initiative arranged by Surrey County Council, I had been asked to talk to 2 of their Year 7 classes of 30 young people (for the traditionalists, this is 11 and 12 year olds) about local politics. This was part of a special day for these pupils where they got to learn about politics, form their own party for the day and then in the afternoon hold a mock election.
Now it is too long ago since I was 12 years old but thankfully, a former teacher who happened to be at the Commissioner Hustings gave me a few pointers so after a scary sounding, “Good Luck” from a teacher, off we went with the first class and a 10 min talk. Now I did expect some of them to gently drift off but not a bit of it and they seemed really interested. They then followed loads of questions such as “How did you get people to vote for you?”, “Why did you want to be a councillor?”, “Do you enjoy doing it?”, “What have you actually done?”, “What’s been the most difficult part of the role?” and so on. Some of the questions really made me think which was great and exactly how it should be in keeping elected reps on their toes.
Onto class 2 with more of the same before we ended with some of their own ideas. It turns out that every pupil had been asked to come up with an improvement or policy for their area for their mock party and they had clearly given thought to this. For example, one girl told me that she lived in Windlesham and walked her dog in the area but she felt unsafe because it was dark and there were not many adults around. (my answer – contact the Windlesham councillors about possible street lights and try to encourage local adults to set up a Community Street Team). A boy then raised problems about the large amount of litter in his local play area in Lightwater which he thought was pretty poor. Another girl talked about graffiti in the area where she goes ice skating in Bracknell.
Unfortunately the bell rang and we ran out of time to hear about the rest but I asked the teacher to e-mail me the list of ideas and comments so we can pass on the right people for a response and hopefully action. Did it inspire anyone to be a future politician? who knows…but if it means some more politicians get lobbied by young people in their area about local problems then it’s got to be a morning well spent.