Sussex students bring politics to life for school pupils
Posted on behalf of: University of Sussex
Last updated: Thursday, 14 June 2018
As the UK gears up for a general election, students at the University of Sussex have been bringing politics to life for local school children.
Students from the ‘Politics in Education’ (PIE) society have been running workshops and events for secondary school children, to explain key concepts such as how the voting process works.
Final-year student Beth Munro started the project after realising that many of her friends hadn’t been taught about voting or the political parties in school – which left them feeling disconnected from politics.
Beth, who is 23 years old and is studying International Development and French, says: “Many young people feel detached from the political system – you can see this in the relatively low turnout among this age group at recent elections.
“We want to demystify the political system, and we want young people to realise that they have a voice and can speak out on the issues that are important to them.”
Beth and fellow PIE members have been running sessions for 14-16 year olds at Ringmer Community College since February, and have received positive feedback from the pupils.
One young person said about the workshops: “I really enjoyed this, I learnt lots about some of the [political] parties.”
Topics covered in PIE workshops include the voting system, political parties, and how young people can get involved in political causes through activities such as signing petitions and writing letters to MPs.
One of Beth’s guiding principles is that the students delivering the sessions should remain neutral at all times to encourage the pupils to feel comfortable airing their own views.
Zachary Sweeney-Lynch, a final-year History student and PIE member, explains: “We try to get the pupils talking as much as possible about different issues.
“It’s about giving them the tools to think about politics for themselves, rather than simply accepting what other people tell them.”
Alongside their work with Ringmer Community College, PIE have also given workshops at Brighton Youth Centre, a local charity that offers events, activities and support for young people.
They are looking forward to taking part in the youth centre’s annual festival for children, B-fest, on 1 June, when they will be exploring politics through fun, craft‑based activities.
Beth also has bigger ambitions for PIE – she is hoping eventually to replicate the scheme at universities across the UK, to ensure that politics has a place in the national curriculum for all children.