Mark Williams – The Importance of Post Brexit Trade Relationships

The first trip to the African subcontinent by a British Prime Minister, since 2013 was indeed a welcome event, earlier this year. In particular, it was significant that Kenya and Nigeria were key destinations, significant recipients as they are of British overseas aid. It was welcome too that the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Education for All, the group I used to Chair in the House of Commons, chose Zambia for its latest parliamentary delegation.

On that visit Teresa May spoke aspirationally of a “ prosperous, growing, trading Africa” and how “ incredible potential will only be realised through a concerted partnership between governments, global institutions and business”. True enough, and no coincidence that Teresa May was leading a 29 strong trade delegation on her visit. That visit must be remembered more for her words than her dance skills! Brexit looms large, but so too the reality that the combined economies of Kenya and Nigeria are less than that of Greater Manchester alone. The Prime Minister was right too to sight a “ unique opportunity at a unique time for the UK.”

But economic prosperity and developing trade relationships must be grounded on firm educational foundations. The growth in the public and private university sector across the African subcontinent has been huge and requires the continued growth in the primary and secondary sectors of school education, the end of those bars to participation, based on gender, disability, poverty and discrimination which blight much of Africa. It also means training teachers adequately, valuating the profession, and striving for quality are essential building blocks of real economic progress.

Britain is striving for new economic relationships globally post Brexit. It must not lose sight of the essential role in its aid and development strategy of education. Developing greater and meaningful collaboration with the African Higher education sector should be developed as a priority, and a constant reaffirmation of the Sustainable Development Goals should be a feature of British trade policy. Education and future trade relationships are intrinsically intertwined.

Lisa Francis – Votes at 16? It’s a no-brainer!

Last year, my Dad died at the age of 88.  Losing a parent is something of a watershed moment in anyone’s life and it got me thinking very much about his own life.  Born in 1929, he had to wait until he was 21 years old before he cast his first vote.  At 14 he was already out at work, had lost his own father and was using his earnings to contribute to his family’s living costs.  Therefore, by the time he’d reached the age of 16, I have no doubt he would have been a mature enough person to have known how he wanted to cast his ballot; I have no doubt either, that he would have exercised that right should it have been allowed.

In the wake of last year’s report of the Expert Panel on Welsh Assembly Electoral Reform and the recommendation that the minimum voting age for Welsh Assembly elections should be lowered to 16, I found myself discussing this with a number of seniors (mostly in their seventies and eighties).

‘16 is far too young to vote’, they concluded, until that is, they started to really think deeply about their own lives and what they themselves had been doing at 16! Just like my Dad, many were already in full-time employment, ‘courting seriously’, (just love that expression!), or about to embark on National Service.

That said, whatever the responsibilities thrust upon them, we all know that young people mature at different rates.

In Wales the Welsh Labour Government is going to extend the franchise to those over the age of 16 for local government elections (just as already happens in Scotland,) and yet 16- and 17- year- olds in England and Northern Ireland are being denied the same rights. Not only is this unsatisfactory but it also encourages elitism.

Evidence-based studies have shown that whether a person votes the first time they are eligible to vote can actually have a considerable effect on the likelihood of whether they adopt a voting habit thereafter.  If enfranchising 16-year-olds increases the proportion of voters who do vote first time, turnout would rise in the long run.

 In Austria where 16- year-olds were given the vote in 2007, evidence shows that launching a campaign which involved increasing citizenship education in schools, encouraging voter registration and raising awareness about elections, meant led to increased political knowledge among 16- and 17-year-olds.  Similarly in Scotland, where Electoral Registration Officers visit schools to register eligible young people and Education Scotland offer guidance on how educational establishments can increase political literacy, evidence shows that 16- and 17- year- olds found it easier than 18 – 24 -year-olds to access information on how to cast their votes.

 For me though it’s a no-brainer! If you are old enough to get a national insurance number, join a Trade Union, leave school, join the armed forces, make a baby and change your name by deed poll, then you are certainly old enough to vote!

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