Do they hear the Dragon?

25th July 2008 at 01:00

Members of Funky Dragon, the young people's Welsh assembly, praised the way the body gives them a voice for their opinions. But they want to know if teachers and the government are listening.

Funky Dragon members aged between 12 and 25 heard the report on participation at their annual conference in Cardiff Bay during the last week of term.

The Youth Assembly, which has a new ambassador in the form of Torchwood star Eve Myles, is part of a pilot project to create a quality mark for young people's participation in Wales.

The assessors - who included trained youngsters from Funky Dragon - said they wanted more information about how their ideas actually influence policy. At the conference, young people had the opportunity to quiz ministers about issues affecting them including education, the environment, transport and the Welsh language.

During one workshop, members asked Wales education minister Jane Hutt about the real impact of school councils.

The young people were concerned about the big differences in power that pupils have in different schools, and they suggested giving councils a small budget to make changes in their school.

Ms Hutt said she would invite members of Funky Dragon to the Assembly committee for children and young people to report on what could be improved. She added that she would like to involve young people in the appointment process of important Assembly staff.

Workshop members also confronted Ms Hutt about her vow last year to distribute their report, Our Rights, Our Story, to ministers. Ms Hutt said council elections had interrupted the work but promised to send copies to all departments.

Darren Bird, chief executive of Funky Dragon, said it was crucial young people received feedback on whether their ideas are being taken up and are given good explanations when they are not.

Erika Borley, 19, a Funky Dragon ambassador, said she has seen real changes take place in Wales. But she added: "Unless you get new people coming in, you don't see whether what the ministers are coming up with directly improves provision in schools."

Members of Funky Dragon's grand council also heard updates on last year's campaigns, which included the right to vote at 16.

Julie Morgan, MP for Cardiff North, who submitted a bill to the Westminster Government about lowering the voting age, said: "Sixteen seems an obvious age at which a young person becomes an active member of society."

Torchwood star Eve Myles said she was extremely pleased to be asked to become an ambassador.

She praised the Youth Assembly's two major reports, saying: "The way they represent all young people in Wales is very special. They tell the story of how they feel about their world, and how they think it can be improved."

PARTICIPATION STANDARDS

Funky Dragon was marked against a set of pioneering Welsh "participation standards". These have been developed together with the Assembly government's participation project and the participation unit at Save the Children Cymru.

Seven standards

1. Information.

2. It's your choice.

3. No discrimination.

4. Respect.

5. You get something out of it.

6. Feedback.

7. Improving how we work.

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