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Countdown’s Rachel Riley judges pupils’ proposals to get women into politics

PUBLISHED: 15:40 16 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:41 16 October 2018

Panelists Donna Ferguson, cllr Princess Bright, cllr Emily Rodwell and Rachel Riley at the Votes for Schools launch. Picture: Ken Mears

Panelists Donna Ferguson, cllr Princess Bright, cllr Emily Rodwell and Rachel Riley at the Votes for Schools launch. Picture: Ken Mears

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Children are using lesson time to discuss Brexit and the Windrush generation following the launch of the Votes for Schools project.

Guardian journalist Donna Ferguson was on the judging panel. Picture: Ken MearsGuardian journalist Donna Ferguson was on the judging panel. Picture: Ken Mears

Last week in Barking Learning Centre, schools were asked to put forward ideas to increase the number of young women in politics, with the best proposals being taken forward by the council.

Eastbury Primary School in Barking won the primary school contest, with their proposal to put ballot boxes in schools for children, while pupils from All Saints Schools took first place in the secondary contest.

The Votes for Schools project aims to improve children’s engagement in topical issues by providing teachers with relevant lesson plans. At the end of each session children vote on what they think should be done on each topic.

The scheme has been running in Barking and Dagenham since June, with 50 schools now taking part.

Cllr Princess Bright, cllr Emily Rodwell and Countdown presenter Rachel Riley were among the judges. Picture: Ken MearsCllr Princess Bright, cllr Emily Rodwell and Countdown presenter Rachel Riley were among the judges. Picture: Ken Mears

Countdown’s Rachel Riley, The Guardian’s Donna Ferguson and Barking and Dagenham councillors Princess Bright and Emily Rodwell judged the schools’ proposals in a Dragons’ Den-style contest on Friday.

Councillor Rodwell is a third-generation politician and emphasised the importance of engaging with politics at a young age.

She said: “At the end of the day, all the decisions that we are making at a local level and at a national level affects the children, so they have a right to debate it as much as we do.”

Barking and Dagenham has the biggest proportion of 0-15-year-olds of any London borough. Under 15s make up more than a quarter of the population. The next closest is Redbridge and Enfield, where under 15s make up 22.8 per cent, according to data from the Office of National Statistics.

Rachel Riley and councillor Emily Rodwell  talking to children from Marks Gate Infants School. Picture: Ken MearsRachel Riley and councillor Emily Rodwell talking to children from Marks Gate Infants School. Picture: Ken Mears

According to Erik Stein, Barking and Dagenham’s head of participation, opportunity and wellbeing, educating future voters is a priority for the borough. He said: “It’s about growing aware, democratically and politically literate citizens, who feel empowered to make a difference.”

Bioanle Bakare, the mother of a pupil at Marks Gate Infant School in Dagenham, said: “It’s better for them to engage young so that when they grow up, they will be able to know exactly what they want.”

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