Seema Malhotra with students from Reach Academy holding signs saying "Hungry for Change"
Seema Malhotra with students from Reach Academy holding signs saying "Hungry for Change"

Last week I was pleased to be invited to visit Reach Academy and to meet their young leaders who have been part of Citizens UK West London for a breakfast meeting where they presented their priorities and the Citizens UK manifesto for local leaders and for the next general election. 

I believe very strongly in civic engagement and in the voice of our young people being heard. Getting involved in volunteering and in community activity was how I built my understanding of local issues and of democracy and politics when I was a pupil at the Green School.  

Reach Academy has part of the Hounslow Citizens UK alliance since 2019 and are excited to be part of the work of Citizens UK. They shared the key issues that Citizens’ members from across the country have identified as being central to our campaigns for social change over the coming years.  

During the discussion, it was incredibly impressive to see these young people who were articulate and passionate about politics – whether that was youth clubs and youth services, support for new arrivals in our community or making sure that everyone has good work and fair wages. They shared their experience of living in the local area, the opportunities they felt their education and schooling was giving them, and their aspirations for all other young people. It was a reminder to me about why civic education from a young age is so vital. As they shared with me their priorities, I was able to  share with them more about how politics and democracy works, how policy choices are made and the ways in which through questions and debates, parliamentarians raise issues and hold Government to account.  

We also discussed more ways in which young people can play their part working with the local council, the work of our local education charity Hounslow’s Promise and projects we can work on in the local community. I also was delighted to have a tour of the school by some of the pupils and to see some of the important early years work taking place as part of Reach Hub. 

Citizenship is a broad study that not only includes politics, but also identities and diversity, financial education and information literacy. It’s a subject that empowers children and young people to take on the modern world. 

Labour is committed to making sure that schools build young people’s life skills, delivering the basics in reading, writing and maths as well as a broad curriculum incorporating creative subjects and life skills that ensures young people leave school ready for work and ready for life. As Shadow Skills Minister, my focus will also be on how we build the skills needed to thrive in the workplace like communication, teamwork, problem solving – skills that employers report that too many young people leaving education do not yet have. 

Labour’s Curriculum and Assessment Review will consider children’s education and experiences from the beginning of primary through to the end of compulsory education.  

Thank you to the students at Reach Academy for your welcome and for chairing our discussions so effectively. It is wonderful to see the work going on in our local schools to see our young people become active, engaged citizens ready to make their mark in the world. We need to make sure that all students are able to have the education and skills the need to succeed and to have their voice heard through the challenges of today and of tomorrow. 

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