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Journalists and MPs to listen to teenagers

It is a common teenage complaint that politicians know nothing about young people's lives and desires. This autumn, a new competition will be launched which will give them a chance to rectify this.

To mark the bicentenary of the parliamentary press gallery, politicians and journalists are inviting 16 to 19-year-olds to submit essays examining elements of parliamentary politics.

Key stage 4 pupils will be asked to explain which law they would introduce or change, if given the opportunity. Sixth-formers will be asked how they would encourage other teenagers to vote.

The winners will be invited to spend a day at the House of Commons in January. They will meet Cabinet ministers and watch journalists and broadcasters at work. Catherine MacLeod, political editor of the Glasgow-based Herald and organiser of the competition, hopes that these essays will allow young people's opinions to be heard.

She said: "For a long time, politics has been dominated by men in suits.

There are very few conduits for kids who have something to say. Politicians and journalists need to know what's going on in the real world, what makes teenagers tick, and what turns them off."

The competition is being staged by the parliamentary press gallery, the organisation set up 200 years ago to guarantee the right of reporters to work in the House of Commons. It will be supported by The TES.

The gallery includes parliamentary reporters from all major newspapers and television channels. Working with MPs, these reporters will select a shortlist of 12 essays. A panel will then choose two overall winners. Their decision will be announced in December.

Michael Martin, Speaker of the House of Commons and honorary president of the press gallery, said: "I support any activity which encourages young people to think about how democracy works."

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