A second-year has launched a petition to make GCSE Politics compulsory

It’s had nearly 15,000 signatures and will be recognised by the Government

University student, Ryan Bradbrook, is leading a petition to establish: “Compulsory teaching of Politics and International relations at GSCE level”. This is following the result of last Friday’s EU Referendum, which showed a mere 35 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds turning out to vote.

Reflecting on the statistics during his lunch break at SRLV accountants this week, Ryan decided to express his concern for the lack of political education at the GSCE level by starting this petition – and people have responded with support.

Ryan, who recently completed his second year studying Politics & International relations at Bristol UWE, has warranted a government response as a result of receiving over 17,000 signatures already – nearly 700 of those being MPs. The growing success of his petition is forcing the Government to take notice, and will be considered for debate in Parliament at 100,000 signatures, which he will hope to hit by the deadline on 28 December 2016.

Ryan spoke to us about his progress:

What made you start this petition?

“Firstly, research from the FT, Sky Data, The Guardian and the Telegraph show that the turnout for millennials was significantly low in the recent EU referendum. This reflects the last general election which showed that the turnout was 54% for 25-34  year olds and less than 40% for 18-24 year olds. Low levels of youth turnout for elections and referenda is especially detrimental to the nation.

“I believe that through educating young children we can encourage youth engagement in politics and allow them to make educated decisions on their future. Having a higher voter turnout would result in referenda and elections being better representative of the nation as a whole, as well as being generally more democratically validated.

“Secondly, when discussing the EU referendum with my family and friends many people told me they simply did not understand many of the arguments surrounding the referendum; that the amount of scaremongering occurring from both campaigns led to confusion and many people being left unsure how to vote. Introducing politics into secondary school education would result in young voters being able to better understand these issues. Therefore, they would be more able to identify and disregard rhetoric, as well as false information that has been designed to mislead the public.

“Finally, introducing politics to the education system would facilitate young people starting a political discourse far sooner than they historically would have. This is important for our political system as by encouraging secondary school children to be interested, or to at least properly understand UK politics, they will be in a better position to engage with politics from the age of 16 and to vote informatively. This could pave the way for the lowering of the minimum voting age to 16 which would again make elections and referenda in the UK more representative of the views of it’s citizens.”

Do you have backing from MPs and parliament?

“As of yet no elected representatives have endorsed the petition, but it has seen traction from political groups on social media, as well as known political activists. It is important to note that the petition is less than 2 days old and is quickly gathering more support as its visibility increases. It is my hope that MPs will soon notice this trend and those of all parties will lend it their backing”

What has been the general reaction, especially at your university?

“The reaction in general has been amazing, I never expected it to get this amount of support! All of my friends and course mates have endorsed the petition and have helped it to gain signatures. I was at work earlier and was speaking about the petition where a few of the people I was speaking to had already seen and shared it on social media! I think youth disengagement in politics in something that everyone can understand and that many people will see as a problem that needs action. A few of my friends have also been vital to the petition just bouncing ideas back and forth on what to write and how to get the petition out there!”

Do you believe it will achieve success and be taken seriously?

“Yes, I believe that people can agree on the fact that we need to educate future generations on political issues and it is easy to relate to that growing need. So far many have received it well with the only criticism that I’ve seen being that some people believe that teachers will support a left leaning government, as they receive pay checks from the state resulting in a completely left-wing electorate.

“However, teaching staff do have to maintain professionalism in the classroom so should be avoided in practise. On the other hand, many people have come out in support of the idea, saying that they think that the issues raised are important; specifically voicing their concerns over low voter turnout and the lack of commonplace political knowledge within the UK. I feel that most people will take the post seriously, yet admittedly, a comment I saw which made me laugh regarding my petition was: ‘Knowing who to vote for is more important than knowing about the cells in a plant in my opinion’. Although the meaning does ring true and I believe that recent events have meant many people are willing to engage with politics and have realised it affects our lives more than we think and is perhaps not such a boring subject after all!”

Ryan is encouraging believers in his idea to sign up to and share his petition. You can also see a map of the locations of signatories here.