Beginnings and endings

Yesterday morning I took part in a St Bernard’s High School PSHE lesson – some of Southend-on-Sea’s councillors were invited in to speak with year nine students. We were split up over the five form groups; I was paired up with Alex Kaye (Conservative, Thorpe) and we both spoke about our respective journeys into politics. We spoke for about twenty minutes, and this was followed by students’ questions.

It seems to me that not many of the borough’s secondary schools invite politicians in to speak with their students, although it could be that I am just not invited. Some of the students at St Bernard’s are voters – their sixth formers could see their eighteenth birthday whilst there. This is also true of all schools with sixth forms. Regardless, an important part of reaching adulthood is participation in democracy, and without knowledge of the process and what the parties stand for it is quite easy to see how disengagement can set in. I think it useful that students meet politicians, and it is definitely useful for me to find out what interests and animates young citizens. Should I ever get my wish for votes at sixteen these sorts of visits will become even more important.

There were six councillors present yesterday. It was an odd mix insofar as there were three Independents, and one each from the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.

I had some ward business with the school, which involved a chat with Pat Barron, head teacher. Somehow the subject of Dick, Kerr’s Ladies Football Club came up. I confess to having not heard of them, but have since researched them. Their story shows how slow football was in embracing gender equality, and doubtless this particular journey still has some way to go.

Another event I attended yesterday was for Dementia Friends. This was a one hour presentation at Westcliff Library. Dementia is normally associated with the elderly, although it can afflict people in their thirties. I meet a number of sufferers, some who I would not recognise as such. Voting eligibility does not cease with dementia, and certainly their rights as citizens continue. Therefore, it is my responsibility to represent them to the best of my ability, and this can be a challenge. This why I felt it important to attend this event, and will try to attend similar in future. Cathy MacBride of the Alzheimers Society hosted the event.

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