Pupil activism boosted by national power base

25th September 2009 at 01:00
UK Youth Parliament founder establishes new organisation to support school councils and fund campaigning by young people

A new organisation to promote children's rights in schools has the potential to change society, its founder claims.

Kate Parish, who was one of the key figures behind the launch of the high-profile UK Youth Parliament, hopes its success will be replicated in Pupil Voice and Participation England.

Ms Parish will be working without pay for the next few months as she sets up the initiative, designed to give pupil activists more power.

Ms Parish left the UK Youth Parliament to join School Councils UK (SCUK), which was designed to encourage children to become active in decision-making.

It soon became apparent that the organisation was insolvent. She was chief executive for just 17 days before she was forced to take the body into liquidation.

"I must have been one of the shortest-serving chief executives ever," Ms Parish said.

"But it was clear there is a real need for a national organisation to represent school councils and help them become part of the community, both nationally and locally."

Pupil Voice and Participation England will be a network for pupil activists and provide them with funds to lobby policy-makers.

It will also assume a training role and help children to establish links with local and national organisations such as parish councils or charities.

The new body has no funding until school councils pay a #163;55 fee to join. A third of this will be reinvested in the organisation and the money will then provide funding for children's campaigning.

Ms Parish hopes 6,000 school councils will join from April onwards, providing a #163;10,000 fighting fund.

She is also seeking investors to support the project, which will start in full next September.

Ms Parish hopes that by getting children involved in their communities they will become better citizens and the leading lights of the next generation.

"We think this is an opportunity to create something new and fresh, and potentially it could change the way society works," Ms Parish said.

"For the majority of young people, school councils provide their first experience of participation.

"If done well, they can encourage young people to look for further opportunities to engage, but if done badly they could serve to alienate young people from taking part in other activities.

"It is therefore vital that a national organisation exists to support school councils and ensure that they are provided with the information and support to keep them alive and invigorated, offering children and young people the chance to connect their school community with the wider community beyond the school gates."

SCUK is now operating under new management. Another company has bought its assets and will be providing training and resources.

For more information, visit www.pvpengland.org.uk.

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