SHAMI Chakrabarti, the director of human rights campaign group Liberty, visited Worthing High School on Friday to speak to pupils about the importance of voting and their role in shaping our future society.
As part of a nationwide campaign by the charity Speakers for Schools, influential public figures have signed up to visit more than 2,000 state schools to inspire the next generation of voters.
Speaking at the school, in South Farm Road, Ms Chakrabarti said: “What was really great about today was the questions, and the confidence that these young people had to speak up. That was really, really heartening.
“If we don’t empower young people through education, how are the powerful going to be held to account in the future?”
In the 300-strong audience of students were head boy Jack Window and head girl Emily Coles.
“Shami said some really interesting things that got me thinking about how I view certain subjects, especially the death penalty and universal suffrage, and how women have only had the right to vote for less than a century,” said Jack.
If we don’t empower young people through education, how are the powerful going to be held to account in the future?Shami Chakrabarti
While Emily reminded people of the importance of voting: “We have the right to vote. We shouldn’t waste it, because some people fought for us so we could vote.”
Head teacher Carolyn Dickinson said: “These young people are our future leaders and it’s important that they understand democracy in its fullest context, because they are the ones who will have to make sure everyone’s human rights are respected.”
Speakers for Schools recently commissioned research with YouGov, the polling organisation, to learn more about what young people’s attitudes and concerns are for UK politics.
As a result of YouGov’s research and with the General Election 2015 only weeks away, Speakers for Schools has drawn up a ‘Next Generation Manifesto’. This brings together the key points that the opinion survey found were most popular with 16-18 year olds.
The way in which politicians communicate with the age group is considered inadequate, and only 12 per cent of of 16-18 year-olds believe politicians communicate effectively with them.
A desire for politicians to have more face-to-face engagement in schools, colleges and community centres was also highlighted.
For more information, see www.speaker4schools.org