IT was fantastic to see over 150 young people from 60-plus secondaries right across the West of England at my Schools Summit – our region’s first ever.
It was held under the wings of Concorde over at Aerospace Bristol in Filton – and I could tell the moment I walked in this was going to be a supersonic event!
How right I was – local students took part in thought-provoking and really fun sessions designed to get them thinking about what our West of England region might look like in the future, how they want to shape it, and what part they will play in this.
As you might expect, the climate crisis was a big, big topic of conversation, because this region’s youngsters, and young people in general, will be most impacted by our changing climate, and will be taking some very difficult decisions in the future.
If you had seen the session organised by Bristol Energy Network it would have all looked a bit nuts, with students jumping around on a giant Monopoly-style board wearing chicken hats. But I promise you, there was a serious message there about how to cut our energy use!
Another favourite was Atkins’ workshop, where I saw curious young people finding out about being engineers and planners through a LEGO model of a city.
Other big employers, including Airbus, Deloitte and Firstbus, ran sessions on the future of transport, culture and sport.
The ideas of the young people were all noted down, so as to directly influence the future of West of England policy.
That’s important – the ideas students came up with could, genuinely, change our West of England region for the better. And I’m already taking steps to ensure this is the case, visiting participating schools like Yate Academy and others to update them on how mayoral combined authority policy – like our upcoming plan for transport – will be changing thanks to their awesome ideas.
Meanwhile, at the ‘marketplace’, students could pick up some wildflower seeds to help me in my efforts to make the West the bee and pollinator capital of the UK, meet a robot dog and learn about the routes to becoming an apprentice.
And I got to play Duncan Bannatyne when a dozen students pitched great policy ideas to me in a live Dragon’s Den-style event.
My thanks to all the students for sharing their ideas, which will really help me get on with making our region an even better place to live, study, and thrive. My thanks also to their teachers, and all the local businesses and organisations who helped make it a success.
I came away feeling buoyed by these young people, the true change-makers and system-shakers – their imagination truly has no limits.
I call that Pupil Power. Now I have the task of harnessing this energy and turning these ideas into reality.
I know they’ll be making sure to hold me to my promises!