How can schools engage young people in democracy?

From running your own referendum to talking to your local MP, to using Brexit and the general election to inform students about politics and voting, Hannah Aitchison in The Guardian tells you how. 

Comments such as “What’s the point in voting?” and “I don’t understand what I’m voting for” are commonplace in my further education college. Engaging young people in politics and democracy is hard, and getting through these negative barriers is the first hurdle. So what can teachers do to inform and engage young people in this issue?

Turn tutorials in conversations. 

I run a weekly current affairs discussion group, alongside a Facebook page where articles can be shared. Using tutorial and registration time to have these conversations – rather than asking students to give up their own time – has helped ensure students are included. 

Hold your own referendum.

We ran our own referendum on Brexit last year, and it helped to get students involved in the issue. Afterwards, we compared the results of the college to the national results and discussed the reasons behind them – the national trend for younger voters to vote Remain and why people in our area were focused on immigration levels as a key issue in the debate. 

Visit parliament.

The education centre at Westminster is an excellent facility to improve students’ understanding of, and engagement with, democracy. A tour of parliament includes visiting both chambers while in session, and pupils can also participate in a workshop. 

Involve your local MP. 

My local MP, Philip Lee, speaks at my college frequently. If you’re not already in contact with your constituency office, send an email asking if they will visit your school. Once you have met the team, the lines of communication, in my experience, are always open.

Ultimately, our main aim must be to provide an interactive forum for students’ ideas and questions to be shared. If we can promote political discussion, perhaps we can also encourage the next generation to become active citizens in our democracy.

Read more How can schools engage young people in democracy?

Do you think politics should pay a greater role in school education? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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Categories: Further Education, Local authorities, Policy, Primary, Secondary and Teaching.


  1. If schools and colleges actually focused on the fact that this ‘democracy’ is actually a constitutional monarchy, we might make some headway.

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