ONE of my aims as an MP has been to inspire an interest in politics among young people.
We should never take our democracy for granted – peaceful transitions of power still do not occur in many parts of the world and the democratic values of tolerance, justice, fairness and freedom of speech should be cherished.
In an increasingly uncertain and dangerous world, these values are more important than ever.
Key to this is connecting young people with Parliament, explaining how Westminster functions and underscoring the message that we all have a role to play in our democracy, whether by championing an issue we care about, serving on a local council or by casting our vote when we are able to.
Teachers here in Central Devon do an excellent job in teaching their pupils about Parliament and I have supported many by welcoming their pupils to Westminster.
More than 500 local pupils have made the trip to see me, including from Ashburton, Ide, Dunsford, Stoke Canon and Bickleigh Primaries.
Usually it is pupils from Years 5 and 6 and some schools have made several visits.
The day typically includes spending time at Parliament’s world-class Education Centre and then touring the Houses of Parliament.
I am always keen to join the pupils for a Question and Answer session and I hope that talking to me provides a tangible link back to communities here in Central Devon.
A travel subsidy is available to state schools which could cover up to 75 per cent of travel costs. More information can be found on my website at: www.melstridemp.com/visitwestminster .
I regularly visit local schools and enjoy speaking to pupils about Parliament and the role of MPs.
I also encourage pupils to share the issues they care about.
This year I have visited primary schools in Hatherleigh, Bow, Morchard Bishop, Ilsington and Chudleigh Knighton. In most cases I have either joined a Year 6 class for a politics lesson or spoken to an entire school assembly.
One excellent route to getting young people engaged with politics is UK Parliament Week, which this year runs from November 6 to 12.
More than a million people got involved last year, taking advantage of a range of free resources, many of which are designed specifically for young people.
Some are suited to primary school children while more academic resources are aimed at those attending secondary school or college. The goal isn’t so much to teach about politics but to provide avenues for young people to express themselves and to begin conversations about issues that matter to them.
While most young people who engage with UK Parliament Week do so through their school or college, some register through local voluntary organisations.
I am delighted that several young constituents from Central Devon have already signed up for 2023.
For more information about UK Parliament Week 2023 and to access free resources visit: www.ukparliamentweek.org .