Students from Bryncelynnog and Y Pant schools debated the proposal to extend voting to 16 and 17 year olds with Pontypridd Assembly Member Mick Antoniw this week.

The sessions were organised to allow local students an opportunity to contribute to the Welsh Government’s consultation on reducing the voting age to 16 for Assembly and Local Authority elections in Wales. During the sessions students were divided into groups and asked to argue either ‘for’ or ‘against’ reducing the voting age to 16. The students views will be included in Mick Antoniw’s formal submission to the Welsh Government’s consultation.

Commenting after the sessions Mick Antoniw said:
“I was extremely impressed with the enthusiastic and informed way the students at both schools engaged in the process. Clearly, they had given this important issue thought and they expressed their views great clarity and with real conviction In fact, they raised a number of issues that I hadn’t previously considered, which underlines the importance of hearing from those who would be directly impacted by the proposed change.”

“Whilst the Welsh Labour Government supports voting at 16 it is important that the voices of younger people are heard before a final decision is taken. However, I am a strong supporter of votes at 16 and was therefore encouraged that this was the overwhelming majority view of the students who took part.”

Participating in one of the Y Pant sessions was student Sarah Pugh, 17 who said:
“The session was really interesting and I was surprised that I changed my opinion during the debate. I’d really like to see more of these sessions on politics and other topics.”

Head Girl Erin Roberts, 17 added:
“It was very useful to hear both sides of the argument. Personally I’m in favour of lowering the voting age to 16, but many of us would like to have more political education, so we can feel more confident about casting our vote.”

There was also positive feedback from Bryncelynnog. Head of 6th Form, Kristy Thomas said:
“This was an opportunity for sixth form students to have a say in a very topical issue; one that will affect them directly.”

“It was very encouraging to hear the students give a range of thoughtful views – both for and against – on the issue of Voting at 16. It’s important that students understand the way democracy works and their role within it, and this engagement session will certainly help them to think more about politics and how it affects them.”

Bryncelynnog Headteacher Debra Baldock added:
“I’m delighted that our students grasped this opportunity to have their say on this important issue. Giving our students the opportunity to engage in wider community issues is very important to us and we are very pleased to have taken part in this consultation exercise.”