Politicians should stop blaming each other if they want to see more young people at the ballot box, according to a former assistant headteacher of a Northampton school.
A YouGov Poll showed just over four in 10 eligible people aged 18 to 24 are likely to vote in the General Election next month, even less than the 44 per cent who did five years ago.
Young people are political; it’s the politicians they can’t engage with.James Nichols
James Nichols, a former assistant headtacher at The Duston School, who now runs Political Education for Students, which tries to enthuse pupils about politics, said the habit of MPs of fighting among themselves was a big turn-off for students.
He said: “Young people tell me they want politics to be less about blame and more about constructive debate.
“The idea that young people just aren’t political is wrong. “They have political thoughts and engage with political concepts on social media all the time, through liking or retweeting.
“It’s the apparatus - the politicians, in other words - they can’t engage with.
“There’s a disparity between politics and Government.”
Mr Nichols said another barrier was that young people struggled to see what they had in common with senior politicians, who they regarded as being Oxbridge and/or privately-educated and millionaires.
He said his experience was that politicians would do well to identify, and talk about, issues that worry young people.
Three examples he gives are: university top-up fees, the resources gap between the best and worst schools in a given area, and gang culture.
Political Education For Students aims to provide a range of interactive lessons for schools and colleges including role- playing workshops, university-style seminars, mentoring and coaching, and teacher training on citizenship and politics.
Mr Nichols said: “Schools have been forced to focus too much on examination headline figures at the expense of the values of citizenship, democracy and politics.
“If we want our children to grow up to understand and support the values we hold as a country and the institutions that govern it, we must ensure that they are taught these at a young age.
“The current provision in many schools is letting down students.”