Children’s summit to build on engagement
A Children and Young People’s Summit is to be held this year, to build on the “reaffirmed desire of millions of Scots to participate in democracy” following the referendum on independence, Education Secretary Michael Russell has announced.
Speaking at the Scottish Learning Festival, Russell said: “Bringing together children, young people, those who support them and wider civic society, this gathering will, I hope, be the beginning of a process that will see a Children and Young People’s Conversation take place around the country – harnessing the renewed interest in positive, energising, consented improvement we’ve seen over the last two years.”
Schools Minister Alasdair Allan and Children’s Minister Aileen Campbell will oversee the process, but Russell insisted the event, and any further work to arise from it, must be led by “involved citizens”, and will have a direct impact on policy. With children and young people from every local authority area in attendance, the summit will initially look at education and services, but the agenda may be widened.
“I’m really open for whatever this throws up. We’ll bring together the widest group of people and out of that we’ll be guided to what the next stage is,” he said afterwards.
People on both sides of the referendum campaign had been engaged in talking about what kind of country they wanted to live in, argued Russell.
“The people of Scotland have shown overwhelmingly that our community spirit and our desire to participate towards the betterment of the nation are stronger than ever. If the grassroots movements of the last two years – people of all parties and none – have shown anything, it is that what unites us all is a fervent wish for a better future for our children, our families and our communities,” he said.
One of the outcomes of the engagement could be the placement of young people on national policy management boards. Iain Ellis, chairman of the National Parent Forum Scotland, sits on the Curriculum for Excellence management board and used a Q & A session to put the idea to the Cabinet Secretary: “Do you not think maybe the time is right for young people to get onto the management board to look at what’s going on and help develop national policy, at grassroots level? Is now not the time?” he asked.
Russell responded: “That’s a good idea. Yes. The challenge we have is to find ways to do things to involve and inspire as many people as we can. I think that’s a great idea and see no reason why we shouldn’t do it. The question will be how we find the young people that should be in there, and that’s a question the children’s summit might want to look at. But yes, I would commit myself to that.”
Asked if the summit timescale was realistic, Russell told Holyrood: “It will depend on the scale of what we do. I’ve been talking about it this calendar year, I don’t think we should be judged on whether it’s November or January.”
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