Young people from across the borough met in the council chamber to take part in a topical debate hosted by Wigan Council as part of Local Democracy Week.
Representatives from schools and colleges in the borough met to debate, “Should the school leaving age be 16 or 18?” a topic chosen for the event by local council members.
Local Democracy Week runs across Europe from 10th-16th October this year and aims to encourage people of all ages to find out more about and participate in democratic processes.
Coun Jo Platt, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People, said: “It’s always really important to us to make sure that we engage with local people on issues of current interest and local democracy week is about reminding the public that there are ways for everyone to have their say, whether that’s calling in to your local councillor’s surgery or making sure you’re registered to vote in elections.
“For children and young people, who may be too young to vote in elections, we run a whole host of opportunities for them to have their say, such as ballots, debates, consultations and events. This week is about reminding them to look out for opportunities and to get involved.
Maria Babu, aged 16 from Wigan and Leigh College, spoke at the event and said: “I’m really passionate about this topic and feel strongly the school leaving age should be 18. I want to address the fact that young people around the world do not get the education opportunities that we do here in the UK and that we should aspire to be better and make the most of our prospects.”
Events such as the democracy week debate, which was hosted by Wigan Mayor Coun Ron Conway, are just one way Wigan Council encourages children and young people to have their say. There are three local youth voice groups, in Wigan, Leigh and Makerfield and a boroughwide Youth Cabinet. The council also supports young people to take part in national ballots and runs the UK Youth Parliament elections locally (where young people are nominated to represent the borough at a national level). Young people are also given the chance to shadow local councillors each year.