The need to engage young people in politics is finally being acknowledged with the introduction of an award that recognises the importance of being an active member of society

To celebrate ‘International Democracy Day’ on the 15th of September, the British Youth Council launched the new ‘Discovering Democracy Award’ in partnership with the Cabinet Office and Department for Education. The award will aim to encourage students to engage with democracy from an early age both within their schools and in their local community.

Minister for Constitutional Reform Jon Penrose said: ‘I am delighted to launch this important new award. In the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta we can all be proud of Britain’s role in laying the foundations of modern democracy’.

Certificates will be awarded to secondary schools and colleges that encourage students to engage with their school council and get involved in social action campaigns. The British Youth Council places great importance on supporting students to develop democratic participation in society, and schools that successfully achieve this will be celebrated.

Jon Foster, Chair of the British Youth Council said: ‘The British Youth Council welcome this partnership with the Cabinet Office to promote and recognise the role of schools in supporting grassroots democracy. These principles are the foundation of our communities, society and Government and where better to nurture them than through education’.

The British Youth Council is the National Youth Council of the UK. The charity aims to empower those aged 25 and under by working to support young people to engage in decision making that will ultimately affect their lives. All awards will be judged by a youth-led panel and schools that encourage a positive culture of democracy and citizenship will be celebrated. Schools recognised by the award will, as well as receiving a certificate, be named in a national register of good practice and their success will be shared with the Electoral Commission and Ofsted.

A collection of interactive resources has been developed by the Cabinet Office in partnership with various other organisations. Rock Enrol!®, an interactive resource pack, aims to help young people to develop a greater understanding of democracy and encourage participation in the voting system. The resource includes activities that explain the history of democracy as well as practicalities surrounding the voting system itself. It recognises that only around half of all young people over the age of 16 register to vote and that many are unaware of their potential to participate in democracy and decision making.

Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson said: ‘I welcome this Discovering Democracy Award that is owned and judged by young people themselves. It is vital that all school pupils develop character and understanding and engaging in the democratic process is a key part of this. We want young people to leave school with not just a strong academic grounding, but a wider understanding of fundamental British values so they are fully prepared to succeed in adult life’.

As well as inspiring students to get involved in their school councils, the award will also encourage them to participate in social action campaigns in their local communities. By introducing the award, the British Youth Council aims to encourage young people to understand the potential of their voice and their power to make changes within society. An early introduction to democracy may ensure greater youth participation in the democratic process in the UK.