School’s out for summer as Politics Summer School students wow their teachers!

Angela Rayner MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour party was one of the speakers during the week.

Back in April, Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman announced a Politics Summer School to be held in July, open to Huddersfield residents aged 16-18.

After applying to join in, and an interview process, twelve youngsters were chosen to take part in the project which came to an end on Friday (23rd July).

The Politics Summer School promised input from MPs, journalists, and campaigners on a variety of issues including lawmaking, engaging with the community, and campaigning, with a focus on climate issues. During the week, sessions have been held by a variety of speakers including; Dr Owen Williams OBE (Chief Executive, Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust), Dr Andy Mycock (politics and youth democracy at University of Huddersfield), Kirklees Councillors Harpreet Uppal and Andrew Cooper, David Lammy MP (Shadow Justice Minister) and deputy leader of the Labour party Angela Rayner MP.

Shortly before their graduation, Huddersfield Times got a chance to catch up with the participants! Here are some of the comments from our chat with them.

What made you want to take part in the politics summer school?
I wanted to get an idea of what the world of politics is actually like. I studied it at A-level; you learn about voting systems and different ideologies, but you don’t really find out about the different careers, what the day-to-day job looks like, what your local councillor has responsibility for and can help with. – Vinnie

I didn’t do politics A-level, and I didn’t really know anything about local politics or the jobs involved so I wanted to get involved and find out more. And I was very interested in the climate change side of things. – Amy

I’ve never studied politics, but (Greenhead) college spread the word about the summer school and I thought; why not? Why wouldn’t I want to find out more and get more involved? I thought it’d be a really valuable experience. – Erin

What are your particular areas of interest that you wanted to find out more about?
It was really the local politics for me, rather than the national politics. I’ve learned a lot about councillors and what they do, and that’s been really interesting. – Christian

Climate change is my main area of interest. I’m going to be starting a geography degree in the autumn. – Amy

Climate change is obviously a big deal and people are becoming more aware about it recently. What advice would you give to someone if they came up to you and asked; “What can I do to make a difference?”
Talk about it. What we’ve all said this week, and been talked about by some of the speakers, is that it’s not treated as a big deal and most people don’t understand the severity of the situation. People think that only young people care about the climate crisis and that it’s not their problem to fix. But everyone needs to get involved. So the main thing is opening that dialogue about the situation is the thing that needs to happen first and foremost. – Erin

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

It’s not enough to just say how sad it makes you or how you wish you could do something. You’ve got to get involved, get out and do it, join protests. There’s this constant echo chamber of opinion, but also inaction. – Vinnie

Spread the word and get loads of people on board with you. Write to your MP in a way that gets you heard. Chase them up. Go to their constituency office. If you’ve got loads of people behind you you’re more likely to get your voice across. –Lottie

As a consumer, being aware of your impact on the planet is an important factor. Society, on the whole, doesn’t realise that small changes like putting on a jumper instead of putting the heating on can make a difference, and more so if more people are doing it. At the moment, society’s norms don’t take into account our impact on the planet. – Amy

We, as individual citizens, often feel like we can’t make a difference. But little efforts can contribute to a larger cause. – Pelumi

David Lammy MP discussed campaigning for social justice with the summer school students.

Have you learned something this week that really shocked or surprised you?
We had a session with Luke Pollard (Shadow Secretary of State for Environment) and he said that, as a country, we’re 73% below the tree planting target. I had no idea about that, things like that don’t get talked about in the media. We tend to think that things are happening and that we, as a country, are doing the right thing. So I was very shocked to hear that figure. – Melissa

{Did he say who it is that’s responsible for planting these trees? Is it companies that build houses, or companies with high emissions etc?}

He said it’s a target for us as a country. But he also said that if Labour were in power, this would be delegated to local councils who would be given a responsibility to make sure it was happening in their area, and hold them accountable. –Barney

Climate change hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind I’ll admit, but we had a session with Jack from Tearfund who said that by 2030 we are likely to see 130 million people pushed into extreme poverty by climate change. He was talking about something that happened in Honduras last year. They had two major hurricanes hit back to back, and none of us knew anything about it. It’s not been in our news, and it made me realise how Eurocentric the news that we receive is, and our view of issues is influenced by this. First-world countries like us are doing most of the damage in terms of climate change, and the result of this hits people on the other side of the world away from view. It’s made me feel much more strongly about climate change and how I can help fix it. -Erin

We learnt that the poorest 3.5 million people in the world are only responsible for 10% of carbon emissions. So if you think about that, it’s gobsmacking. These poor people who are barely contributing to the climate crisis and damaging the ozone layer are the ones who are having to live with the results of the emissions from the rest of us. – Claudia

What do you think the press could do to make climate change a bigger issue and convey how serious it is?
First of all they need to cover it more. They’ll cover things that are relevant to what they perceive to be their target audience; such as if a celebrity got caught up in a freak storm, or a large company’s headquarters were damaged. But don’t cover these really important issues and events that are happening in other parts of the world. They need to tell the truth more. – Lottie

Make some noise – your voice counts, and you must use it.
Photo by Polina Kovaleva from Pexels

More stories about individuals who’ve been affected by climate change. When we see news about something that’s happened in a particular country or city, it seems really detached from what we know, but if they told the stories of individuals, normal people and families, then more people would sympathise because they are more likely to be able to imagine themselves in their shoes. – Amy

We have been so impressed with what these young people had to say, and how much they’ve clearly gained from their experiences at the Politics Summer School. They have displayed incredible empathy, critical thinking skills, and understanding of major issues that most of us don’t even try to get our heads around. Barry Sheerman joined the call to tell the group that he’d had glowing feedback from all of the speakers and noted how well thought out their questions had been and that they hadn’t shied away from broaching sensitive topics.

It is hoped that in the not-too-distant future, the summer school cohort will be able to meet in person at an event held by Mr Sheerman, and there was mention of a visit to Westminster.

It’s very reassuring to see this next generation of young people taking an interest in what is often considered a boring topic; politics. Gone are the days when it was considered taboo to discuss politics and political leanings, and that is very much for the better. We’re confident that this bunch will go far. Well done to you all!

P.S. Don’t forget, send us any articles you’d like to be shared, we’d love to hear from you 😊

Huddersfield Times

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