English Language and Maths have been two subjects which have always been core GCSEs in secondary schools across the United Kingdom. These subjects are compulsory for teenagers doing their GCSEs because they are seen as being vital to their future.
What else is important for young people’s futures? Politics. It can change people’s lives and help voters across the UK decide which direction the country goes in. Citizenship Studies includes political content within its specification. This makes it so vital that it’s being continued to be taught as a compulsory subject as Key Stage 4. Although not all students take an examined GCSE in the subject, Citizenship Studies is currently mandatory subject on the National Curriculum.
There’s been a stereotype levelled towards young people that they lack any sort of interest in politics. Perhaps the turnout of young voters in the last couple of decades has supported that argument, with 18-24 year olds averaging a lower turnout than a lot of other age groups. Despite 64 % of this age group voting in the 2016 referendum, which was the highest percentage in 25 years, this still isn’t a high enough turnout in my opinion.
Young people are the people who are going to be one of the groups that are going to be affected the most by elections and referendums. Just look at the Brexit scenario. The majority of youthful voters didn’t want to leave the European Union.
For voting turnout to increase, the importance of voting must be emphasised. Even if a secondary school student isn’t aiming to take a daily interest in politics in the future, the power of holding a vote in an election or referendum is severely underestimated at times. However, other pupils may gain a great passion for politics. An increased number of people studying politics at sixth form and university can only be a good thing. More opinions will make our democracy even better.
At my school, Citizenship Studies was one of my favourite subjects. Although politics was covered slightly, with aspects like different voting systems like First Past the Post being taught, the policies of different parties were not even mentioned. That was the only negative for me. Looking at the 2018 exams from the new AQA specification for Citizenship Studies, there’s significantly greater political discussion included. Such ideas include the EU referendum result and a question on whether the voting age should be reduced to 16.
The specification for Citizenship should never be too exam-heavy. Allowing students to create projects and political speeches can only help to make politics an exciting topic to learn about within the subject. Let’s face it, a lot of people have no interest in politics whatsoever because it may seem ‘dull’ at times. If we are to change these attitudes, we need to be allowing young people to express themselves through coursework and practical assessments (as opposed to written exams).
The decision to study an important subject like this should not be a chance that’s taken away from pupils in the future. It should remain as a compulsory GCSE. From there, we might be able to lower the voting age to 16. This can allow more young people to have a say in important political decisions.
Giving young people a vote is an indication of trust. This trust could see more people voting. Such a move will give us election and referendum results which are better suited to a range of views across the country. As a 16-year-old during the EU referendum, I knew the way I wanted to vote. We need to provide adolescents the opportunity to lead their version of the good life, and extending the franchise could do. Hopefully, this policy could be one of the first steps to recovering from the political turmoil that’s been caused by the division and toxic debate that has been bubbling away for the past generation, magnified by questions of the European ideal.