If there is one aspiration I hope we all might share for 2018, it would be that our young people feel and believe that they are valued, wanted and vital to our country’s future.
Scotland’s Year of Young People 2018 celebrates young people as one of this country’s greatest assets. Collaboration is crucial to its ambitions, between government, youth partners – such as YoungScot, Youth Scotland and Scottish Youth Parliament – event organisations, and other public and voluntary sector groups. The idea is to reset our country’s relationship with young people, change perceptions of them and celebrate the contribution that they make to our society.
Planning began in 2015, with hundreds of young people aged 8-26 determining the issues that mattered to them. They agreed the aims and objectives for 2018 and tasked government with creating a mechanism to let young people achieve them.
Of the six key themes that will underpin the majority of the year’s activities, it’s unsurprising that education features prominently. Raising standards in education is key to giving young people a platform to succeed, not just at school or in education, but in life.
Year of Young People provides a prime opportunity for Scotland to lead the way internationally in its approach to giving young people a voice in their education. We will include provisions in the Education Bill to that end. It is also an opportunity to recognise the important role supporting adults play, and to shine a light on the life-changing impact teachers and youth workers make to young lives.
In Shetland, where I attended the launch, local MSYPs have already started to attend council education meetings and I’m keen that there will be a legacy of participation, with young people having the chance to influence decisions that affect their lives.
There will be a busy and exciting events programme, with 60 new or enhanced events across Scotland, all co-designed with young people. They can also apply for funding to run their own events and activities throughout the year, developing skills and engaging their local communities. The Create18 fund is still open, closing on 22 January. Please encourage young people from within your area to apply.
There will be little point in the Year of Young People if we get to next December, put away the toolkits and pack away the activities with no fundamental shifts to point to and to take forward. We must put young people, their voice and views at the heart of this activity.
By pausing to listen to how young people perceive the world – and how they are perceived by others – we can seek a better future for current and subsequent generations.
That would make for a fine legacy indeed for Scotland’s Year of Young People.
Maree Todd is the minister for childcare and early years