I have found that my time on the Youth Council and being a Youth Mayor has helped me significantly. The confidence that I have gained from sitting in meetings with rooms full of adults has encouraged me to speak in class. It has also taught me that I should not be scared of voicing my opinion.
Having something that I am passionate about has also benefitted my wellbeing. One of the main issues that I have campaigned about, during my time on the Youth Council, is the poor quality, lack of consistency and, in some cases, the absence of PSHE.
PSHE stands for personal, social, health and economic education. I think it is one of the education systems more serious flaws, but also one that can be rectified. PHSE is marketed as many different things in different schools, but in essence it’s education about sex, drugs, finance, citizenship, how to prepare for jobs and many of the other non-academic life skills.
Unfortunately, PSHE as a whole is not compulsory. Some parts such as sex and relationship education and citizenship must be taught by schools, but other PSHE subjects are optional. This means that there is no authorised and uniform curriculum, leading to irregular and sometimes sub-par learning around the country.
Whilst PSHE may not seem like an issue that is not as significant as getting good exam results, for those it affects it is very important. I have found that since I have been applying to university, many of the skills that are covered in PSHE are now becoming more prominent in my life.
My personal experience of education and PSHE, as I mentioned, has been largely positive, but from speaking to and seeing testimony from students across the city this is so often not the case. For those that have not had a positive experience of PSHE, there can be negative consequences further down the line.
In my role as a Youth Mayor, I have been able to speak to many different stakeholders who have a vested interest in PSHE to try and influence their thoughts and decision making. In October 2018, councillors, OFSTED representatives, teachers and students attended a PSHE conference that was organised and facilitated by the Youth Council. We also carried out a survey of over 1,500 Bristol-based students, which demonstrated that PSHE was a serious issue that young people care about.
To be able to be involved with the Youth Council and do something so meaningful, as well as enjoyable, has been very rewarding. It has helped to take my mind off of school, but most importantly is has helped me to develop greater self-confidence. My ability to debate and develop an argument has improved too and I feel that I now have an inner-strength to challenge other people’s thinking and differing views.