THE BLOG

Why We Should Commit to Discussing Politics More in the Classroom

26/01/2016 08:32 GMT | Updated 25/01/2017 10:12 GMT

Today 4Children launches the findings of our six-month national inquiry into family life, asking whether Britain's families are Thriving or Surviving? We heard from more than five thousand parents and young people across Britain about their daily lives, challenges and their aspirations for the future.

Young people are often seen as being apathetic towards politics, but one of the most striking findings of our inquiry was their appetite to know more.

Statistics from the 2015 General Election suggest that young adults (18 to 24-year-olds) are almost half as likely to vote as those aged 65. People often assume it's because they don't care. The young people we spoke to were well aware of the importance of politics in their lives and those of their families. What they lacked was confidence in their own knowledge and therefore their ability to engage. Few attempts have been made to engage young people in politics. This has caused real frustration.

Messages that were coming through loud and clear in our face to face discussions with young people were echoed in our national polling. Our national survey of 16-24 year olds showed that three quarters (75%) of young people wanted to see more political education as part of their curriculum.

More and more young people are now active online and getting involved in protests and social movements - demonstrating their strong social conscience and appetite for civic engagement. They rightly feel political education is a necessity for further participation.

We agree. Our report recommends that consistent class time should be devoted to discussing political affairs. We're calling for schools to do more to provide young people with opportunities to learn about political parties and processes, and engage with political debates and ideas. This is something that needs to happen to get more young people engaged with mainstream politics and to make our political process more democratic.

The lack of political education contributed to a broader theme within our inquiry - young people feeling concerned and ill-prepared for adult life. Many of the young people we spoke to felt too much emphasis was being placed on passing exams and achieving results in school. They felt that the education they received in school didn't prepare them for the real world. They talked about wanting to learn important life skills. With results from our national poll indicating that almost half (49%) of young people would not know how to pay a gas/electricity bill if they were living alone or with flatmates, it seems they may have a point.

As well as education in school, we need parents and services to work more closely to ensure young people have the practical and academic knowledge they need to succeed in adult life.

And it wasn't just the young people who were worried for their futures. Many parents we spoke to worried about what lies ahead for their children. Our national polling showed that only half (50%) of parents expected their child to get a job that pays a decent salary by the time they were 30, whilst just over one in four (27%) expected their child to be on the property ladder.

The future is going to be challenging for young people. Whether it's careers advice, political awareness; life skills education or mental health services; young people need to be supported properly so they can thrive in adult life.