Diana Toynbee (far left) and Ellie Chowns (far right) congratulate 6th Form Green election candidate Anna Ricks (right) and her campaign manager Lily (left)

Sixth Form Students inspire hope

Hereford Sixth Form students from three political persuasions inspired a crowd of attendees at De Koffie Pot this week with their hopes for the future.

Mock Election candidates Anna Ricks (Green) and James McClelland (Communist) were joined by Campaign Managers Lily Andrews (Green) and Henry Jenner (Labour) to talk about their recent election campaign, what they had learnt, and their hopes for the future of politics.

They then joined in discussion at tables for a serious of topics including ‘What are the top worries for young people today?’, ‘What do we feel positive about?’ and ‘How do we engage young people more in politics?’.

Organised by Hereford Green Party but open to all, Big Green Conversations cover a wide range of political and ethical topics and take place every fourth Wednesday at De Koffie Pot at Hereford’s Left Bank. They are a relaxed, participatory and sociable event to which all are welcome.

Organiser Rob Hattersley said ‘These students were truly inspiring and a credit to their college and to Herefordshire. They understood the issues and although they had concerns for the future they also gave us a lot of hope.’

Top issues raised were not surprisingly tuition fees, student debt and poverty, and the need for better paid jobs in Herefordshire. Young people were also concerned about increasing division in education between schools who compete instead of co-operate, and a high-stress academic system which has implications for mental health as well as undervaluing vocational skills. They did however express real hope for the future of politics, with student Anna Ricks (Green) saying: “It seems that things need to get quite bad for people to get involved, so now we are seeing more young people engaged because it suddenly seems really important.”

Anna added: “We really enjoyed the evening. We felt very welcome and it was great to see older and younger people discussing important issues together and understanding each other.’

Henry Jenner, Labour supporter in the mock election added: “This is a great event which I’d recommend others to come along to, whatever party you support. In our election we actually found we had more in common with each other than we had thought.’

The mock election was won by Labour’s Adam Hill with 136 votes, second was Green Anna Ricks on 64, and third James McClellend (Communist). The Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates, who could not attend the event, came fourth and fifth respectively. It is run most years at the college with Labour winning last year as well, and the Greens the year before that.

To engage more young people in politics, the students suggested lowering the voting age to 16, and proper political education for all from an early age, both of which happen to be Green party policy. They also warned older political activists against trying to be too clever with social media! “It has to come from us”, they argued.

Green Parliamentary candidates Ellie Chowns (North Herefordshire) and Diana Toynbee (South Herefordshire) also attended the event and ended the evening congratulating the students for their inspiring input.

Leominster briefing

Peter McCaull – a life of service

We were saddened last December to learn of the death of Councillor Peter McCaull. Peter was dedicated to Leominster, serving the town as a councillor for an astonishing 44 years.

CAB at the library

Herefordshire Council’s withdrawal of a grant forced Leominster Citizens’ Advice Bureau to close. Now Town Council support will enable CAB to offer free advice sessions at Leominster library every fortnight.

Great British High Street

Congratulations to the town centre traders and Leominster Business Group for their success in gaining Silver in the Great British High Street Awards Rising Star Category. They also won Gold for their brilliant promotional activity on social media. Well done!

Community Hub takes shape

Work on Leominster’s planned new ‘Community Hub’ at 11 Corn Square is progressing well. Community Wheels and the Marches Family Network have moved in and the Tourist  Information Centre and the Town Council will soon be moving there too.

Future of Leominster Primary

Greens are concerned about proposals for the school to leave the local authority and join a Malvern-based academy chain.

Councillor Felicity Norman said: “Greens oppose academisation because it fragments and divides our education system, although we do understand that schools are under pressure from the government to do this. We believe that it would be preferable to partner local smaller schools, as this would help to ensure their viability and retain local control and influence.”

Rob Hattersley - Communications Officer (South)

No more PE sick notes?

The i reports today that PE lessons at one of the UK’s top private school are being replaced by wellbeing classes. Leaving aside our views on whether or not private schools help or hinder equality or overall educational attainment, is traditional PE the best way to promote overall health and fitness?

From childhood I preferred co-operation to competition, and as a result I hated PE as a child. Lots of us did. As an adult, I keep pretty fit; I love walking and cycling and in recent years have taken up swimming, running and the gym. As a primary school teacher who loved exercise but hated sport, I tended to focus on lessons which all the children could engage with, rather than the sports focus which excludes up to half the class and actually puts them off exercise.

So I applaud what Wellington School are doing as long as exercise is built into the wellbeing programme. We should be educating our children for real life. Some sport is fine – it’s a useful way to learn teamwork and resilience – but it should be more varied than either what I experienced or was encouraged to teach. The sport must also be outweighed by the exercise for fun, and wellbeing element. If pupils want to extend their sports skills, they can do it after school. Good for Wellington – now for state schools.